Hamilton Is Ready For Its Closeup

February 6, 2023 4 Minute Read

The Design District

Hamilton is in the early innings of its long-awaited transformation.

While economic headwinds are adding pressure on real estate, Ontario’s Steeltown may be among the best positioned cities for the future.

And Hamilton is providing developers and investors an alluring alternative to Toronto thanks to the availability and affordability of development sites.

CBRE’s Brett Taggart and Brad Walford are at the centre of the action, having sold four significant high-rise development properties in downtown Hamilton that promise to redefine the city’s skyline.

Two of those sites were acquired by their client EMBLEM Developments.

“We had a lot of interest in these sites and got a lot of questions about Hamilton,” notes Taggart. “Many of the potential buyers were Toronto-based developers looking at Hamilton for affordability reasons. They see the potential for housing values to close the gap with the rest of the GTA.”

That includes Toronto-based EMBLEM, which sees Hamilton as a significant destination for future development projects.

The attraction appears to be mutual. The first tower at EMBLEM’s master-planned project, The Design District, had overwhelming success, with the second tower launching 4 weeks after.

Understanding the cost of living is a driving factor for major decisions in housing. EMBLEM’s mandate is to create the most efficient unit layouts in the market. Their first project in Hamilton, 1 Jarvis, won the Best Suite Layout award by the North American Association of Home Builders.

1 Jarvis Street

Ready to Re-emerge

Interest rate hikes and rising construction costs have affected  the velocity of sales timelines across the country. Hamilton is no different.

“That same trepidation exists here,” says Taggart. “But we know this city will be among the better positioned markets when things shake out economically speaking.”

A big reason why is that the downtown Hamilton secondary plan is facilitating new development in an effort to promote revitalization of the entire city.

Various levels of government have invested $3.4 billion in a new 14-kilometre, 17-stop light rail transit line for Hamilton, to accommodate the city’s growing workforce, which is expanding at a rapid clip thanks to a steady flow of immigration and new residents priced out of other cities in Ontario.

Expanded GO Transit service will also provide greater connectivity for Hamilton to major job centers across the GTA and beyond.

“Hamilton will be quick to emerge when the volatility calms, because of the momentum that’s been building to this point,” says Walford. “We think this market will pick up where it’s left off. Hamilton will be high on the list of alternative cities people want to explore.”

The Design District

Where the Cool Is Happening

Alan Leela, VP of Investments at EMBLEM Developments, was an early believer in Hamilton’s potential. The company made its first investments in Hamilton in 2019 and continues to seek more opportunities.

“Toronto was getting expensive. For half the price, people could have access to high-quality jobs and education, not to mention a meaningful cultural experience in a burgeoning downtown, with all the new restaurants, bars, shopping and entertainment options opening up here.”

This includes the $500-million development of a new entertainment hub that incorporates FirstOntario Concert Hall, the FirstOntario Centre, the Hamilton Convention Centre and the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

The city’s makeover involves a $140-million redevelopment project on the Hamilton waterfront, which will transform the harbour into a pedestrian-friendly community with a commercial village and public plaza.

“We know that people want to be where the cool is happening, and we saw it happening in Hamilton five years ago,” Leela says. “We took a risk as a first-mover, but we are proud to see the city continuing to evolve and progress towards its true potential.” 

Hamilton will be quick to emerge when the volatility calms, because of the momentum that's been building to this point. - Brad Walford

Creating Critical Mass

The flagship of EMBLEM’s Hamilton developments is The Design District, a master-planned community at 41 Wilson St. in the heart of the downtown core.

With architecture by IBI Group and interior design by Burdifilek, The Design District will include three 31-storey towers totaling 931 suites above a retail podium. Construction on the project is set to begin in spring 2023.

“The ripple effects from The Design District will be considerable,” says Leela, noting that EMBLEM themselves bought the site across the street, 92 John Street, for a future project. And their first acquisition in Hamilton, 1 Jarvis, also located in the same area, tops off this year.

“When you’re in a market on the precipice of change like Hamilton is, you maximize your investment positively contributing to the local area with high-quality, complete developments” Leela says.

“You create critical mass to accelerate the evolution.”

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