The Pasadena re­born as condos af­ter blaze

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - JEFF MA­HONEY jma­honey@thes­ 905-526-3306

The Pasadena, one of Hamil­ton’s first and finest apart­ment build­ings (1914), had a ter­ri­ble 100th an­niver­sary two years ago. It lit up like a birth­day cake, then burned stub­bornly through a long night, de­spite the best ef­forts of fire­fight­ers.

They fi­nally quelled the blaze. But in the morn­ing and long af­ter, many feared the city had lost the her­itage trea­sure. The struc­ture held, as did the dis­tinc­tive fa­cade. But the in­side suf­fered pro­found dam­age. For a year, it was derelict. You should see it now. Ac­tu­ally, you can. Paven Bratch and Metro Part­ners, the de­vel­op­ment com­pany he founded to save The Pasadena, are launch­ing the push to sell the 32 con­do­minium units tak­ing shape in the once-ru­ined in­te­rior.

There’s a pri­vate event Wed­nes­day but in­ter­ested peo­ple can now ar­range vis­its and regis­ter at thep­ or call 289-426-5827.

Paven and I stand in front of the art nou­veau-tinged mas­ter­piece.

You can still see scars of the fire on the ex­te­rior brick (it’ll be cleaned) but in­side the place is hon­ey­combed with work nodes and busy crews.

They’re bring­ing up an orig­i­nal fire­place here, restor­ing an old stair­case there, sal­vaging ev­ery­thing orig­i­nal they can.

Paven re­calls the fire well. He owns Ra­dius Restau­rant, a block away. He would of­ten walk past in the af­ter­math and see not the charred shell of a gut­ted ruin but the way ahead — to a sec­ond chance for a great old neigh­bour.

He would en­vi­sion its fu­ture place in the neck­lace of James Street South and its es­tu­ar­ies like Duke, Bold and Au­gusta.

If only the build­ing could be re­stored, its ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage kept in­tact, but with mod­ern ameni­ties like in-floor heat­ing, ev­ery­thing up to code; no un­wanted anachro­nisms like be­he­moth boil­ers in the base­ment. (“It was an oil fire in the old boiler, big as a steam en­gine” that started the fire, Paven says.)

“Ifonly’s”are­only“if’s”un­less some­thing gets done, so Paven and Metro Part­ners bought the build­ing. They worked with the city.

Now it’s a ques­tion of when and not if. And when is now. I stand on the rooftop with Paven. The vista is spec­tac­u­lar.

“We’re putting in a rooftop pa­tio,” Paven says, then points out­ward along the sight­lines, the tree canopy, the neo-Gothic look of St. Paul’s Pres­by­te­rian spire and other area build­ings, art gal­leries, the ag­gre­ga­tion of restau­rants, Du­rand neigh­bour­hood un­fold­ing in one di­rec­tion, down­town in an­other, the art deco GO hub in yet an­other.

“There’ll be a lounge, din­ing area. The rooftop will be the epi­cen­tre for sum­mer­time so­cials.”

This mi­lieu — the whole James Street South ex­pe­ri­ence, piv­ot­ing around the gor­geous lime­stone ter­race, from Hunter to the hos­pi­tal — has spe­cial rel­e­vance. Paven’s fa­ther, Yogi Bratch, ran Yogi’s IDA phar­macy at Au­gusta and James for decades.

Hence Ra­dius’s lo­ca­tion (di­rectly across Au­gusta). I remember him tak­ing me through the grand reno there (it was Isaac Buchanan’s old down­town home) five years ago.

Here we are in an­other one — the Pasadena.

We stand at the top of the mag­nif­i­cent old, red oak, spi­ral stair­case corkscrew­ing up the cen­tral height of the build­ing’s atrium, cul­mi­nat­ing in a sky­light.

“It’s the orig­i­nal handrail,” says Paven. It sur­vived some­how but the spin­dles are be­ing re­placed, to meet mod­ern stan­dards. The build­ing has so much else. Nine-foot-high ceil­ings, pe­riod tile, wrought-iron bal­conies, hand­crafted touches like the ma­sonry and re­stored wood and glass front doors, ex­posed brick, moulded plas­ter beams, her­ring­bone wood floors.

Per­haps the most strik­ing fea­tures are the twin ground-to-roof bays pro­ject­ing from the ex­te­rior front walls, pat­terned brick with pale in­sets and large cor­nices. Orig­i­nally built as a lux­ury res­i­dence, it hailed a new era of ur­ban liv­ing at the time.

The Pasadena’s restora­tion, Paven hopes, will usher forth an­other new ur­ban era, one in which fu­ture and past, cul­ture and com­fort, har­mo­nize.

The ren­o­va­tion is de­signed by award-win­ning Hamil­ton ar­chi­tect Richard Lin­tack.


Reach­ing new heights in mag­nif­i­cence: Paven Bratch stands on the grand old Pasadena spi­ral stair­case.


A fire ripped through The Pasadena on Bold Street, just west of James Street South, in Fe­bru­ary 2014.


The fa­cade of The Pasadena, pic­tured here in Jan­uary 2015, was largely spared in the Fe­bru­ary 2014 fire, but the in­side was badly dam­aged.

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