A plan to build a film studio hub on city-owned land on Hamilton’s West Harbor has added a cast member.
And another step toward a potential deal that sets the stage for the mega-project will go before city council in early July.
TAS — a Toronto-based company focused on mixed-use projects and commercial community centers — is to lead the proposed redevelopment of approximately 14 hectares of barren land between the CN Railyard, Queen, Tiffany and Barton streets.
“Our story is that of a company focused on making profound impact and using real estate as a tool and platform to achieve that,” Mazyar Mortazavi, TAS President and CEO, told The Spectator.
“We see a great opportunity in the Barton-Tiffany lands.”
TAS is also working with the Hamilton Community Foundation to renovate the historic Copley Building downtown on York Boulevard.
Meanwhile, Aeon Studio Group, which already has a production studio on Queen near the municipal properties, is “excited” to have TAS on board, partner Jeff Anders said.
The consortium, which aims to transform the properties into a mixed-use creative arts and residential district anchored by film and television production studios, also includes Forge and Foster, a local real estate investment firm.
In 2019, Aeon agreed in principle to buy the land the city had bulldozed a decade earlier to build a stadium, eventually built on the former site of Ivor Wynne in the East End.
In doing so, the partners also committed to building a team that has “access to the capital to deliver a project of this scope and scale,” Anders said.
“We are very excited to be taking the next steps and reaching the point where we can begin developing these lands as soon as possible.”
City officials expect to update the council on July 4 of the consortium’s efforts to fulfill the terms of a letter of intent (MOU) to result in a land sale.
“Nevertheless, we are not yet at the end of the process. We are in the middle of the process,” said Chris Phillips, the city’s Waterfront Director.
The partners have held public engagement sessions and submitted a master plan and business case as required by the MoU.
There are also environmental hurdles, Phillips noted.
“Everyone involved recognizes that this is a wasteland. It has a significant level of contamination.”
Many Ward 2 residents are interested in moving the project forward, Coun. said Jason Farr. “We could potentially officially call the Barton-Tiffany area Hamilton’s state-of-the-art film and television center by the end of the summer.”
In February, Aeon opened its Bayfront Studios in an 80,000-square-foot former manufacturing facility at 243 Queen St. N., across from the city-owned lots being eyed for mixed-use development.
Anders says he hopes the consortium will make Hamilton a “destination” for film and television production, as well as other creative sectors like gaming, animation and special effects.
Rooms for unions and post-secondary institutions are also planned, he noted.
“So we really want to see all this skill development and job creation as part of the fabric of the place.”
The partners have also “committed to ensuring” that part of the future housing mix includes affordable units, Anders said.
Over the years, the city has spent around $13 million securing land in the Barton-Tiffany area, where it demolished homes for the failed stadium plan.
In 2020, the city brought a five-acre former Stelco lot at 242 Queen St. N. to the studio, which Aeon later bought for $3.9 million.