The Hamilton Spectator
No buyer yet for brow lands near hospital
Mohawk College still hoping to expand campus on the Fennell Avenue West site despite provincial plan for long-term-care home, residential development that could include towers
The brow lands around Century Manor have yet to be sold nearly one year after the province put the 11.6 hectares on Fennell Avenue West on the market.
“Why is it taking so long?” said Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas MPP Sandy Shaw.
The Progressive Conservative government backed out of a deal in 2020 to sell 290 Fennell Ave. W. to Mohawk College in favour of a longterm-care home with at least 256 beds and residential development that can include towers up to 18 storeys high. The plan required a controversial minister’s zoning order (MZO), allowing Ontario’s minister of municipal affairs and housing to override local zoning.
“They made it a big deal that they had to step in and place a minister’s zoning order on this property in order to fast track long-term-care homes,” said Ward 8 Coun. JohnPaul Danko. “Then years later they still haven’t even sold the property let alone built the long-term-care home that they promised.”
City council unsuccessfully asked for the MZO to be rescinded in 2021.
“We don’t support the minister’s zoning order,” said Danko. “We would love it if they just rescinded that and we could proceed with the plans that we previously had with the purchase agreement with Mohawk.”
The province is not changing course according to statements from both the Ministry of LongTerm Care and the spokesperson for Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra.
“Timing on the construction of the long-term-care home will be agreed to between the province and the successful purchaser as part of the conditions for selling the site,” stated the ministry. “The ministry will work closely with the successful purchaser to ensure shovels are in the ground at the earliest opportunity.”
The provincially-owned land, which is on the site of the former Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital west of West 5th Street, was still listed by Infrastructure Ontario as being on the open market as of Thursday. But Calandra’s spokesperson Jake Roseman says that’s no longer the case.
“At this time, due to commercially sensitive information, details on the process cannot be provided as the open market period for this site is closed, and the offer assessment process is currently in progress,” he said.
Members of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario plan to go to Queen’s Park on Tuesday to advocate for the preservation of Century Manor, says Shaw. The property listing doesn’t mention the last remaining building attached to the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane dating back to 1884.
“The hardest part of this entire site is what’s going to happen with Century Manor,” said Danko. “That seems to be the missing piece.”
The Mohawk agreement, negotiated in 2018 by the previous Liberal government, would have seen Century Manor restored. The land would have been used to expand the college’s campus and allow public access to the brow. The land sale proceeds would have been used to build affordable housing downtown.
“There was a perfect made-inHamilton plan that the government came to town and just blew up,” said Shaw, a New Democrat. “If the government really wanted to act urgently on the housing crisis, as they say they do, why are these lands sitting here to be sold for profit ... It’s a waste of resources. It’s a waste of time.”
She also questioned why the public lands are being sold privately without any input.
Mohawk, meanwhile, still hopes to expand its campus onto the site in some form.
“Mohawk College remains open to exploring and supporting opportunities that would include an educational component to any plans for long-term-care development,” said spokesperson Bill Steinburg. “The college has many strong partners in the health-care sector and remains open to supporting a partnership that would allow students to learn and train on the proposed site.”
Danko hopes the province considers the expansion of Mohawk College when it evaluates the proposals. Preference is given in the listing for affordable housing, market rental housing, education and health-care uses. But none are a requirement.
“My understanding from the province is that because it’s a real estate sale, it’s not just highest bid,” said Danko. “They’re actually reviewing what the proposals are, what would fit best. We’re really hopeful that Mohawk is still part of that picture.”
Danko says his biggest concern is what the residential development will look like.
“The minister’s zoning order allows for up to 18 stories ... which would be completely out of the scope and scale of what the city would ever have supported for that site.” he said.