From strip club to arts centre
November 13, 2009
Special to the Hamilton Spectator
CityHousing Hamilton boss Keith Extance wants to convert a boarded-up former strip club at 95 King St. E. into an arts centre featuring a two-storey, glass-fronted entry court with 10 artist studios upstairs.
Extance recently persuaded his agency's board of directors to approve spending $3.5 million to turn the building into a "creative catalyst" on the rundown north side of King between James and Catharine streets. It would also complement CityHousing's new Gore Building next door.
CityHousing bought the building last December and cancelled the adult entertainment licence. A study found it's structurally sound and worth saving.
Extance sees an opportunity to create a high-profile home for a local arts group and affordable live-work space that might entice graduating McMaster University fine arts students to stay around.
He says: "The city is trying to promote the creative industry and this could be a catalyst. It's been fully endorsed by the board, but we're still looking for that last little bit of funding before we go ahead."
CityHousing has already met with a group of artists to get advice on what would attract them -- slop sinks, for one, a feature not included in most apartments.
"We want to build it to make sure they come," he says. "The last thing I want is vacant units."
Extance is also working with city culture manager Anna Bradford to identify prospective tenants for the first floor and basement.
When the centre is up and running, CityHousing expects either to mortgage it or sell it, and possibly the Gore Building as well, to raise money for other projects.