FOR SALE: City block on King St. E., $2.5M
Downtown site pitched for new highrise apartment
An entire city block for sale on King Street East is being pitched as an ideal site for one of the city’s first new rental apartment buildings in decades.
New highrises aimed at market-rate renters are rare in Hamilton – but it’s no longer a pie-in-the-sky notion, say local developers, landlords and city officials.
Marino Rakovac’s White Star Group is selling three properties bounded by King, Arthur Street and Sanford Street as a $2.5-million package. The listing includes conceptual drawings of a 120-unit, 11-storey apartment highrise with a commercial base.
Rakovac said he wants to “test the waters” with potential buyers, but hasn’t ruled out building or partnering on such a project himself.
“We think demand (for higher-end rental units) is really perking up,” said Rakovac, whose group is also working on an eight-storey west harbour condo proposal. “In conjunction with the city’s intent to bring in light rail and encourage intensification along the corridor, I think this sort of project looks increasingly attractive.”
He’s not alone. Most sky-climbing residential buildings in the last several years have been either affordable-housing projects or condos, said city urban renewal manager Glen Norton.
But Norton said an unnamed local developer is expected to make a pitch for city incentive cash next month for a downtown rental apartment building. He called the idea of an apartment tower at the King Street East location “interesting, and not impossible,” adding there is a shortage of core lots available to handle large-scale developments.
“We’re seeing more interest in that type of project from investors,” he said.
Part of the reason is the city’s low apartment vacancy rate, which is now below 3.5 per cent, combined with a steady influx of would-be downtowners moving from Toronto and other urban areas, he said.
Hamilton is also garnering national recognition as an attractive place to invest at the same time a GTA construction boom is “squeezing builders out” of Toronto.
Hamilton’s core can expect “more and more” interest from residential developers, said Joe Mancinelli of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. In the right location, a new apartment tower could be a “home run,” said Mancinelli, whose group is in the design phase for a new residential tower behind the revamped Lister Block.
The King Street East block now up for sale includes the former Rocque restaurant, a vacant car lot and the old Superior Signs building. The three-quarter-acre lot would require underground parking and zoning changes to allow for a highrise, said broker Augie Ammendolia.
But Ammendolia, who is also a board member of the Hamilton and District Apartment Association, lauded the property’s proximity to the core and a planned LRT node. “I think the demographics in Hamilton are changing to the point where the economies of scale will work for a project like this again,” he said.
Not sold on the idea of buying a city block? Other unique properties up for grabs at the moment include:
• The famed Corktown Pub, one of the country’s oldest Irish pubs, is on the market for $795,000. The landmark tavern and music venue at the corner of Ferguson Avenue and Young Street opened as a pub in 1931.
• The unofficial castle of Durand, 26 Ravenscliffe Ave., and its chimneys, towers, turrets and 11 bedrooms, are up for grabs for about $1.9 million. Built by Sir John Gibson in 1881, the estate first hit the market in 2010 for closer to $3 million.
• McMaster University gets first dibs if the city goes through with the proposed sale of the old courthouse at 50 Main St. E. The city hopes to recoup at least $5 million.