Hamilton Economic Development

Former Studebaker plant faces wrecking ball again

The old Studebaker factory seen from Ferrie Street . The building is at Victoria Avenue North and and Ferrie Street East.

Local developer plans to clean up land, build industrial subdivision.

The old Studebaker factory seen from Ferrie Street.  The building is at Victoria Avenue North and and Ferrie Street East.

A new proposal for a “pristine” industrial complex on the site of the former Studebaker factory is set to become one of the largest brownfield redevelopments in Hamilton’s history.

Local developer Sergio Manchia, working in conjunction with DCR Holdings Inc., the company that owns the former auto plant, is moving forward with an industrial subdivision at 440 Victoria Ave.

Manchia said the development will be the perfect spot for businesses that need both office and industrial space, like contractors, roofers, or a small machine shop.

“The objective is to create a pristine industrial park,” Manchia said. “We’ve had overwhelming response and inquiries just by word of mouth from a lot of smaller businesses in the city.”

At Monday’s general issues committee, councillors approved a $650,000 grant for demolition of the old Studebaker building. The project, which Manchia calls Freeman Industrial Park, is also eligible for further grants to remediate the land.

“It’s an ideal opportunity to clean up a brownfield site that has been lying dormant,” said Councillor Bernie Morelli, whose ward includes the Studebaker property. “It’s certainly accomplishing something we need to accomplish.”

The 530,000-square-foot building has had a long history. Over the years, it has housed Otis Elevators, the Studebaker factory, Allan Candy, and weapons factories during both the First and Second World Wars.

However, the building has sat vacant in recent years. Its ceiling height, size, and configuration don’t suit modern manufacturing and warehousing requirements, while its large scale makes it impractical for most nonindustrial businesses.

Last year, council heard a proposal from a Mississauga-based developer to turn the building into a massive recreation sports complex. That plan called for more than 100 playing surfaces for a variety of sports, including soccer, ice and ball hockey, lacrosse, basketball, volleyball and beach volleyball, and track.

However, that proposal floundered and the development firm’s offer to purchase the building eventually expired.

In 2003, a film studio that opened on the site was quickly forced out of business by the rising Canadian dollar and U.S. competition.

The Freeman Industrial Park proposal includes demolishing the building to make way for 22 industrial lots ranging from 0.71 acres to 1.5 acres, and a new road running from Victoria Avenue North and Wentworth Street. Part of the former Otis offices at the corner of Victoria and Ferrie streets will be maintained to preserve some of the historical character of the building.

Manchia, who also developed the new condo at Dundurn Street and Aberdeen Avenue, hopes the demolition and remediation will be finished by the end of 2012, with the park opening in the spring or summer of 2013.

Manchia declined to put a dollar figure on the project.

Article courtesy The Hamilton Spectator.




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