In­fa­mous Catharine Street North prop­erty up for grabs again

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW VAN DON­GEN

At its worst, the derelict brick house served as a flop­house, mag­net for fire bugs and oc­ca­sional home to the key­holder for an ad­join­ing fac­tory full of toxic waste bar­rels.

The bar­rels and elec­tro­plat­ing plant are now gone from 245 Catharine St. N. af­ter the city de­cided in 2011 to by­pass the owner, clean up the waste and knock down the fac­tory.

Neigh­bours ap­pre­ci­ated the $135,000 par­tial cleanup — but they’ve also lost track of the num­ber of fires at the old home, pe­ri­odic break-ins by van­dals, drug ad­dicts or just home­less res­i­dents seek­ing shel­ter.

“If some­one would do some­thing with the place it would just be good for the neigh­bour­hood, you know?” said Nuno Fer­reira, who has lived within walk­ing dis­tance of the former fac­tory and its run­down res­i­den­tial neigh­bour since 1994.

It’s avail­able via city tax sale now, but it’s a tough sell. The as­sessed value of the pol­luted com­mer­cial prop­erty is about $43,000 — but the city is owed $290,000 in back taxes, which rep­re­sents the min­i­mum ac­cept­able bid.

The city had tried a tax sale be­fore, in 2013, with no tak­ers. But ward Coun. Ja­son Farr is hint­ing the result of this fresh

I think we’d all like to see changes there …” NUNO FER­REIRA, RES­I­DENT

ef­fort might be dif­fer­ent.

“Res­i­dents have been re­mind­ing me that what we did in tear­ing down the fac­tory and putting up the fence, all of that was meant to be Stage 1 of a greater ef­fort,” he said.

“I have to be care­ful what I say, but I will say I’m feel­ing con­fi­dent we’re get­ting close to be­ing able to an­nounce a Stage 2.”

In the­ory, the owner could pay the taxes owed and yank the land off the mar­ket.

But Dave Maden still faces a court or­der to pay a $71,000 fine for ig­nor­ing past cleanup di­rec­tives at both the Catharine Street site and a Hess Street North prop­erty that still con­tains bar­rels of mys­tery waste.

The 71-year-old didn’t re­turn calls last week, but pre­vi­ously told The Spec­ta­tor he didn’t have the money to com­ply with the court or­der.

A fledg­ling com­mu­nity land trust also eyed the prop­erty at one point, but Farr said he thought the “long-term plan” for the prop­erty likely re­quires “sub­stan­tial re­sources” for cleanup and re­de­vel­op­ment.

Any would-be res­i­den­tial re­de­vel­oper also faces po­ten­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal re­me­di­a­tion of the former elec­tro­plat­ing fac­tory site. It’s un­clear if the old home is sal­vage­able or not — its most re­cent no­table fire, in 2013, caused more than $75,000 in dam­age.

Farr ex­pressed hope the new James Street GO Sta­tion and planned de­vel­op­ment of the west har­bour area would make the prop­erty on Catharine “a more at­trac­tive pickup” for prospec­tive in­vestors.

Fer­reira hopes so, too. “I think we’d all like to see changes there — but es­pe­cially if they’re not spend­ing our tax dol­lars to make those changes.”

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