By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Another part of former Ward 3 councillor Bernie Morelli’s dream of revitalizing his neighbourhood has been secured by the city of Hamilton.
Paul Johnson, director of community and neighbourhood initiatives, said the city is expected to take possession this week of 12.15 acres of formerly industrial land that is expected to be transformed into a sports park for the entire city.
“We needed more green space (in the area),” said Johnson. “(With the purchase) we have more land than what we had with Brian Timmis Stadium.”
The property had been the site of the former Dominion Glass Company, which left Hamilton in 1997 after 134 years in the city. Over the last few years the land, located north of Barton and west of Gage, had hosted a warehousing operation and some light industrial uses.
While Johnson couldn’t say how much the city was paying to purchase the property, he said the total cost for the land, remediation, and initial construction to remake the land into a sports park is about $12 million.
Johnson confirmed the city will have to do some remediation of the property, but he said city staff have already investigated and conducted its own testing to determine what will be required to be done.
“We feel confident about the property,” he said. “It has had a good history. We have seen the documentation. There are not a lot of question marks.”
But to transform the industrial land into park land will take resources and time. He said it could take up to three years before the park is ready for activities, and that the $12 million may not cover all of the costs associated to build the park. Current plans involve constructing washrooms, parking, play fields, including one to replace the lost Brian Timmis Stadium land to the new $145.7-million Tim Hortons Field.
“The $12 million gets us started, to acquire the land, and clean it up,” he said. “It’s a significant increase in property for us.”
The land purchase is part of a large re-development strategy for the area that was launched by Morelli during an emotional announcement last December in front of his council colleagues, weeks before he passed away to cancer. The city is also building a $17-million senior and recreation facility and the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is planning to construct a new school in the area.
Johnson said the potential for the new sports park remains exciting for city officials. He said it will be an inviting place not only for residents but for people from across the city to use.
“This will help to change the area along Barton Street and Gage,” he said. “It will be a great park for all people.”
The city is planning to begin demolishing the existing buildings in November, which will take about six months to complete.
He said the community will identify what they want in the park. Even though city staff has provided preliminary designs of the possible park composition, specific areas remain open to changes.
“We don’t know yet what will be there,” said Johnson. “That’s all to be determined. We don’t want to pre-suppose what residents want there. There will be time to work with the community.”