Giant ‘Hamilton’ sign will light up city hall It will cost $250,000 to $300,000, but taxpayers are off the hook
It’s taken a little longer than expected, but the mayor’s plan for a huge eye-catching sign on the forecourt of city hall goes before councillors this week.
Fred Eisenberger says the sign, which will spell “Hamilton” in giant illuminated letters, will cost $250,000 to $300,000 to build and install but taxpayers will pay “zero” for it.
“This is gift from the private sector to the City of Hamilton for Canada 150,” he said.
The design will be unveiled at Thursday’s public works meeting. It’s based on similar letter signs in cities such as Toronto and Amsterdam where they’ve proven popular photographic backdrops for tourists and residents alike.
“I think the design is unique in the sense that it’s stylized, but it’s in that vein. It’s the ‘Hamilton’ name, nothing more dramatic than that. It’s a particular font with lighting capability and variable lighting options.”
Eisenberger says the designer is local but declines to reveal the name until council has seen the report.
He’s also keeping the private donors under wraps until the initiative is approved. The plan is to honour them with name plaques attached to the letters.
Eisenberger revealed he was rounding up private funding for the sign as part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations at the annual Chamber of Commerce mayor’s breakfast in May.
P.J. Mercanti, CEO of Carmen’s hospitality group, and Laura Babcock, president of Powergroup Communications, are spearheading the project on his behalf.
According to Eisenberger, he’s spoken to all members of council about it except for two he was unable to connect with. Of those consulted, he says all support the idea except for one who was noncommittal.
Not surprisingly, Eisenberger has picked up some community criticism along the way.
Some complain the sign is an uninspired copy of what others cities have done. Others argue that for such an important public space as the city hall forecourt there should be a design competition to create a unique work of art.
Both are valid points. But in his own defence, Eisenberger says the idea is to get the sign lit up during the sesquicentennial year. An open competition would have complicated things.
“We could have gone down that road but it would have taken a heck of a lot longer, and the idea was to make it a Canada 150 event. To do it sometime next year wouldn’t have had the same cachet.”
The mayor initially thought he’d be able to bring the plan to council last month but it was sidetracked by the crucial debate over LRT.
“We kind of lost our momentum, but we’re back and we want to be able to get it done for this year.” Speaking of LRT … Eisenberger says he won’t support Matthew Green’s impending motion asking Metrolinx to ensure that the light rail system will be run by the city-owned HSR instead of a private company.
Green, who originally intended to introduce the motion Monday, is holding off until a special LRT meeting Aug. 9.
Eisenberger fully supports union members working for the private contractor who will ultimately be hired to design, build, operate and maintain the $1-billion LRT system. And there is nothing to preclude that contractor negotiating with HSR to run the system.
But he says Green’s motion to “mandate” that HSR run the system is “too absolute” and “betrays” the procurement model set out in the signed memorandum of agreement between the city and Metrolinx.
“The moment you open up an agreement, that leaves it open to changing other things as well. I think that’s the danger and I don’t think that’s necessary.”
Eisenberger agrees with Sam Merulla that the motion would be a reconsideration vote requiring a two-thirds majority to pass. Having already crossed so many major LRT hurdles, Eisenberger doubts council will be willing to raise a new one in the project’s path.
“I think many would be loath to take another step back.”
Andrew Dreschel’s commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. email@example.com 905-526-3495 @AndrewDreschel
This is a gift from the private sector to the City of Hamilton for Canada 150. MAYOR FRED EISENBERGER