Private developers are leading the way when it comes to bringing investment to Hamilton’s employment lands and business parks.
The City of Hamilton owns a total of about 40 acres of developable employment land. It used to own much more but prefers to let the private sector take the lead, says Guy Paparella, the City’s director, industrial parks and airport development.
Across the city, there are almost 700 acres of “shovel ready” employment land available.
“Private developers are taking the lead. When times are slow, the city has to pick up more but the private market sees less risk and more opportunity in Hamilton now. The City can spend on infrastructure rather than marketing and competing with the private sector. They do investment development best.”
While the private sector has the advantage of speed and agility, development has to be a team approach, says Steve Malovic, chief operating officer of Krpan Management Group, a significant landholder in Waterdown.
“We can’t do it without the City but the City can’t do it without us.”
“Shovel ready” land – a site with suitable Official Plan designation, zoning, and municipal servicing/ utility infrastructure in place – allows a municipality to be immediately responsive to investment opportunities.
Hamilton is making road and other infrastructure improvements that are leading to more shovel-ready lands in areas of Hamilton where there is a lot of demand, says Paparella. Those areas are the Red Hill area of the east Mountain, the industrialized harbour, the airport district, and Waterdown.
“As the City increasingly spends money on infrastructure this allows developers to see that it is a good time to make their own investments,” said Norm Schleehahn, manager of business development for the City.
Stryker Canada’s $100-million investment for a new headquarters in the new 95-acre iConnect Business Park in Flamborough will be a catalyst for further development, says Schleehahn. It broke ground in September.
The idea is to tie the employment lands into an existing development of retail, restaurants and grocery amenities. Malovic is hearing from hotel chains and other commercial operators interested in locating in iConnect.
“We haven’t started marketing it yet but we put up a billboard for the (Stryker) ground-breaking and we are getting calls on that alone.”
Malovic says the strong residential market in Hamilton, along with its quality of life and affordability, will only drive more employers to arrive, too.
“People don’t want to trek into the GTA to work. The City’s open for business approach means there is great potential here. Once a company comes here, they will stay. Stryker is a great example of that.”
Movengo Corporation is moving ahead with servicing a section of Twenty Road for Nebo Trails, a 40-acre parcel of land in the Red Hill South Business Park on Hamilton’s east Mountain. It’s also developing a commercial property in Winona.
“We’ve had sales offers before shovels were in the ground in both locations,” said Aaron Collina, president of Movengo.
A major shift has happened in the city, says Collina.
“When we first acquired the land in Winona about four years ago, the Triple A players weren’t interested. Now, our phone rings all the time.”
He expects that to only accelerate, saying land in downtown Toronto is going for $125 million an acre, versus $9 million in downtown Hamilton. Nebo Trails will go on the market next spring. Hamilton’s geographic and transportation advantages – including access to huge markets and provincial highways, the port, the airport – are obvious to potential investors, says Collina.
“It’s all finally happening,” said the Hamilton native. “This is a great opportunity for our kids and our kids’ kids. We are welcoming new people and new investment.”
Read the full Perspective Hamilton 2017 feature here.