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Downtown Entertainment Precinct agreement approved

HAMILTON, ON – City Council has approved an agreement that sets the stage for millions of dollars in investment in Hamilton’s downtown core, while saving municipal taxpayers an estimated $155 million over 30 years.

The approved Downtown Entertainment Precinct master agreement is a 49-year agreement between the City of Hamilton and the Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group L.P. (known as ‘the Precinct Group’).

The agreement will see the Precinct Group take over responsibility for the operations and maintenance of the FirstOntario Centre, the FirstOntario Concert Hall and of the Hamilton Convention Centre, for a period of 49 years with no monetary contribution from the City.

The Precinct Group’s proposed minimum $50 million renovation of the FirstOntario Centre includes a new exterior façade and video board, comprehensive transformation of the lower bowl, expanded concourse level, and a new flexible curtaining system for the upper bowl balcony.

The renovation also proposes to allow year-round access to street-level activations on York Boulevard which will include a Sports Lounge, an e-Gaming zone, and additional food and beverage offerings in collaboration with local hospitality partners.

In addition to the comprehensive arena transformation, the Precinct Group’s plan includes over $12.5 million in capital upgrades, expansion and aesthetic enhancements to the existing Hamilton Convention Centre and Concert Hall, as well as a one-time $2 million contribution to the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

The Precinct Group’s plan also includes over $500 million in auxiliary mixed-use development, including 5% affordable housing in one of the residential developments.

As part of the agreement, the City will be transacting the following City-owned properties to the Precinct Group for the purpose of redevelopment:

  • York Boulevard Parkade
  • Surface parking lot located at 14 Vine Street
  • 191 York Boulevard

The City’s contribution to this agreement is limited to City owned lands in the downtown core, and a new incentive program called the “Downtown Entertainment Precinct Advancement Program”. 

The Precinct Group is to take over the operations and maintenance of all three entertainment venues on April 1, 2022 with the City retaining ownership of the lands and facilities.

The City looks forward to working alongside the Precinct Group in this historic redevelopment initiative that will benefit community members and visitors to the new entertainment district.

“The approval of this agreement will begin the revitalization plan for a world-class entertainment precinct, right in the heart of downtown Hamilton. I would like to thank both the Precinct Group and city staff who ensured this agreement will not only drive additional tourism but will see significant residential and commercial development in our community. This development will bring economic stimulus, additional development opportunities and ultimately reduce cost for our taxpayers.”- Mayor Fred Eisenberger

“This is a historic and exciting next step for our community to see revitalized entertainment and culture added to the burgeoning vitality in downtown Hamilton. Thank you to our city staff and the Precinct Group for their tireless work to finalize this robust agreement. Thank you as well to my colleague, Councillor Sam Merulla, for his long-standing advocacy on this initiative. I look forward to seeing work begin on FirstOntario Centre next year.” - Jason Farr, Ward 2 Councillor

Quick facts

  • On December 1, 2017, Hamilton City Council approved a motion that directed staff to investigate opportunities for a private sector-led redevelopment of the FirstOntario Centre, the Hamilton Convention Centre, and the FirstOntario Concert Hall.
  • In July 2020, the City announced that it had selected the Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group L.P. as the successful proponent in the redevelopment initiative.
  • Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group L.P. (known as ‘Precinct Group’) is a regional consortium led by Carmen’s Group and the Mercanti Family and Associates, working in collaboration with venue operators, industry consultants and development partners, including LiUNA, Meridian Credit Union and Paletta Group.
  • The “Downtown Entertainment Precinct Advancement Program” is to be a tax increment-based program. Under the program:
    • Grants are provided relative to the actual increase in municipal property taxes that are generated as a result of an improvement and/or development undertaken on a property. 
    • Grants are provided over a maximum term of 30 annual payments and subject to City Council approval.
    • Additional details on the “Downtown Entertainment Precinct Advancement Program” will be provided in a public staff report at the July 6, 2021 Planning Committee meeting.
  • The City’s Parking Master Plan will provide direction on future parking operations in relation to this agreement and the Precinct Group will work with city staff to replace a portion of the public parking capacity at the York Boulevard Parkade and 14 Vine Street.
  • The Precinct Group and city staff will continue to work with Community Living Hamilton at 191 York Boulevard. The Precinct Group has committed to ensuring that Community Living Hamilton’s on-going operational requirements are addressed in any new development on this site.
  • FirstOntario Centre construction will take place over two years and completed in two phases. Work is anticipated to begin in the fall of 2022. The Precinct Group will work with current tenants and operator to minimize any operational impacts of the renovations.
  • Construction at the Hamilton Convention Centre and the FirstOntario Concert Hall will take place after the completion of the FirstOntario Centre renovations.
  • The Precinct Group will work with internationally renowned Arena Architect BBB and lead local architect DPAI in bringing their vision to reality and has indicated extensive plans for the entertainment precinct, including:
    • Premium food and beverage amenities like a microbrewery, viewing cocktail lounges and enhanced hospitality suites,
    • Refreshed performer rooms coupled with improved technological investments will ensure top-tier artists and all visitors have a best in class experience,
    • A long-term ambition of transforming the area into a Distillery District-inspired area, with enhanced pedestrian capabilities and a complete live-work-play experience.

“Being Hamilton born and raised, my family and I have many treasured memories in our city’s beloved arena, concert hall and convention centre. Carmen's Group is proud to have effectively managed the convention centre on behalf of the City these past seven years, and our Precinct Group is now honoured to steward each of these three invaluable community assets into the future, in order for the next generation of Hamiltonians to experience their own moments of wonder and celebration within them. We are looking forward to a continued partnership with the Hamilton Bulldogs, Hamilton Honey-Badgers and Toronto Rock as the arena's anchor tenants. The signing of this Master Agreement is the ‘end of the beginning’, so now the real work begins as we embark on our ambitious and visionary plans.” - PJ Mercanti, Precinct Group President and CEO

“As a member of the Board of Directors of the former HECFI and initiator of the 2016 Arena Renovation Study, I’m delighted that our iconic Hamilton Coliseum will be transformed in order to become a destination for music lovers, sports fans, families and all visitors to our great City. We are deeply grateful to City Staff and Council for having the courage to move this tremendous initiative forward.” - Jasper Kujavsky, Precinct Group Partner and Director, Arena Renovation Project

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