Hamilton is on track to surpass the previous $1-billion record building boom set in 2010 as the city gathers its first-quarter building-permit reports.
The total value of construction in the first quarter of this year is $271 million, up $75 million compared to the first quarter of that record-setting year.
Aside from the warm winter, Neil Everson, the city’s director of economic development, said part of the reason for the fast start is the issue of permits for long-awaited developments such as the $15 million in construction at McMaster Automotive Resource Centre (MARC) on Longwood Road, expected to be complete by January 2013 at a total cost of $26 million.
In March, the city also issued building permits worth about $6.5 million to the first hotel — a 129-room Staybridge at the corner of George and Caroline — in Darko Vranich’s massive condo and hotel plan. He is planning four buildings, containing 600 condo units, two hotels and retail space, a $125-million complex bounded by King, Main, Bay and Hess streets.
However, it’s the increase from $28 million in industrial/commercial development in the first quarter of 2010 to $65 million this year in a diverse set of companies that has Everson buoyant about 2012’s outlook.
“The diversity is what makes us really happy,” said Everson. “I think that’s what helped Hamilton weather the 2008 recession somewhat better than other places which may be reliant on the auto sector, for example.”
There was also a collection of small and not-so-small commercial projects such as the new Starsky grocery store in the east end ($900,000); the $7.7-million Walmart on the corner of Ottawa and Barton streets; another $768,000 phase at the Walmart power centre in Flamborough and a new Starbucks/Shoppers Drug Mart complex across from McMaster worth about $2.5 million.
The first-quarter results follow the release of the city’s economic development department’s annual review, which noted strong figures for 2011, with the critical non-residential (commercial and industrial) permits representing 21 per cent of the annual total.
Everson said it’s hard to predict what will happen with the residential building permits, but he’s crossing his fingers that the next quarter will be just as strong as Maple Leaf and another company, Activation Labs, start construction on new buildings.
The volume of inquiries has picked up — but Hamilton has often been the target of inquiries. Only lately have they followed through.
“They used to kick the tires; now they’re buying the car,” said Everson.
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