Hamilton’s Royal Connaught Hotel has been the centrepiece of the city for nearly a century. When you set eyes on its 13 Edwardian storeys, you know you have arrived downtown.
When it opened on June 5, 1916, it was the tallest building in town. Luxurious and ultra-modern in its day, everyone from prime ministers, royals, and celebrities to local businesses and weekend revelers stopped at the Connaught.
Hamilton has been through some tough times since then, and so has the Connaught, which sat vacant for a decade until last year.
The Connaught is about to open its doors again, this time reimagined as a mixed-use condominium that will soon expand to 5 phases, with 700 residential units.
Why now? There are several reasons. Hamilton’s aggressive economic development department has been busily revitalizing downtown Hamilton, and attracting business. While Ontario’s unemployment rate rose by 1.4 percent last year, Hamilton’s fell by 0.6 percent.
Four thousand new jobs were created this year, and as construction for the 2015 Pan Am Games ramps up, more will follow. Construction of a new GO station will also start this year, adding additional jobs. Economic growth is resulting in population growth.
According to the CMHC, an influx of Toronto-home-price refugees make up half of Hamilton’s 4,500 annual migrants, the other half being immigrants from outside Canada. As a result of a positive economic outlook and in-migration the CMHC has predicted home prices will rise faster than the national average in Hamilton this year.
Feeling the time was right, two of the largest builders in the Hamilton area, Spallacci Group and Valery Homes, teamed up to take on what will be Hamilton’s most significant residential project to date.
For the past decade, the City of Hamilton has been actively cleaning up and modernizing its downtown, but these efforts would be incomplete while the Connaught sat vacant.
“Once it’s back on its feet it’s a major, major injection to downtown Hamilton,” said Ted Valeri of Valery Homes.
The public will get its first chance to see the renovated lobby when it opens on June 7.
“We blended the classical elements in the lobby and added modern touches throughout,” explained designer Lisa Boyer.
A dazzling mix of old and new, the original limestone floors were refurbished and the original columns and moldings have been carefully restored, rising 23 feet into tray ceilings holding crystal chandeliers.
The lobby will hold the showroom for the project’s first phases for now. Hamilton’s urban professionals working at places like McMaster University, which has nearly completed a new medical centre steps away, are expected to make up a large portion of the purchasers.
Commuters from the GTA are also expected as Metrolinx announced it will soon provide two-way, all-day service between Hamilton and Union Station.
For investors, Hamilton’s vacancy rate sits around 3 percent, but luxury condo rentals right downtown, with amenities like the Connaught’s, are harder to come by in Hamilton. When the project is complete, residents will have 37,000 sq. ft. of amenity space including a fitness centre, theatre, recreational rooms, and a rooftop terrace.
Phase one suites range from 555 sq. ft. to 1,084 sq. ft. with prices starting in mid $200s.