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Hamilton Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer says the decision by city council to pass on the development of a 6,000-seat arena at Lime Ridge Mall is “shortsighted.”
The 54-year-old businessman and majority owner of the OHL team says he’ll now have to consider other options in housing his franchise after the decision from Wednesday’ general issues committee at city hall.
“Because of this report, because of the press, I have had interests,” Andlauer told Global News. “But at the end of the day, I have to look at all my alternatives. I’ll do what’s in the best interests for fans. And we’ll go from there.”
Andlauer didn’t specify a particular option for the Bulldogs beyond Hamilton, but did say he has interest “from outside” the city “not too far away.”
“I would love to work something out. I thought this was a solution that could have been worked out.”
On Wednesday, councillors voted 11 to 3 against participating with Andlauer and Cadillac Fairview in a development at the Mountain mall.
A report presented by authors Glen Norton and Ryan McHugh from the economic development and planning department (EDPD) during the city’s general issues committee was the catalyst for a vote against buying into Andlauer’s Lime Ridge plan.
The study recommended that “no further action be taken” in terms of moving forward with the project citing cost and location as issues, as well as the potential “negative perception” associated with downsizing to a capacity of fewer than 10,000 seats.
Andlauer says the proposal was all about finding a solution for all parties involved and that the most “disappointing part” of the process with the city was all the “years” of talking and “nothing” being done.
“There was no intent to try to work together, to try to find a solution. It was strictly Mountain versus downtown,” said Andlauer, “And that was that’s been my biggest (disappointment) they’ve been talking about this for years and nothing has been done.”
Executive Vice President of Development at Cadillac Fairview Wayne Barwise shared Andlauer’s disappointment in the city’s decision to “to take no further action” in engaging with the Andlauer Lime Ridge proposal.
“I think the decision lacks vision and I think it’s short-sighted and I think they ought to reconsider it,” said Barwise. “I think that they faced a decision on wrong numbers. I also think that it’s really important, in addition to investing downtown, to invest in the suburbs and in the Mountain areas.”
One of the numbers Barwise contested in the economic development report related to parking. The study said it would cost $35,000 to $40,000 per stall in an above-ground parking garage at the new facility. Barwise says Cadillac Fairview could get done for $25,000 to $30,000 which is about the figure the corporation presently spends to build stalls.
Barwise also says he’s not buying the report’s assumption that the operation and maintenance of the existing First Ontario Centre over a 20-year period would be tens of millions of dollars cheaper than maintaining a new Mountain arena.
“Cadillac Fairview is kicking in the land for free, and we haven’t even valued that into the equation,” said Barwise who went on to say the city didn’t consider incremental tax revenue from the arena and “other developments” that would be triggered at Lime Ridge, including development on the now vacant Sears retail space at the mall.
“Look, everyone’s aware that Sears went bankrupt in Canada over a year ago and they closed all their stores. There’s one at Lime Ridge and that’s been vacant for the last year. So the city is gonna be losing tax money on what it used to collect on this year’s property.”
Among the “other developments” Barwise referred to, is the application Cadillac Fairview submitted in April 2018 with the city’s planning department for a multimillion-dollar redevelopment of Lime Ridge Mall including 12 new buildings and close to 200,000 square feet of new retail, restaurant and commercial space which he said could be at “risk.”
“We’re trying to transform the shopping center so it’s more than a shopping center,” Barwise said. “So it’s a mixed-use kinetic community. So, you need other things. You need catalysts.”
In August, Andlauer put forward a proposal to Hamilton city council for the construction of a Mountain arena in which he would foot $30M of its initial cost.
The plan called for a 6,000-seat arena at Lime Ridge Mall, along with a three-story parking garage at a cost of $126 million, with his group taking over management of the facility for 20 years.
City Hall’s vote to reject the offer still needs ratification which is expected in another vote on Jan. 22.
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