Hamilton City Council followed in the provincial government’s footsteps on Friday by announcing an investment into Hamilton’s arts and entertainment sectors.

The city had been weighing two separate bids to revitalize the buildings across from City Hall; specifically FirstOntario Centre, the Hamilton Convention Centre and FirstOntario Concert Hall. The first bid, from Hamilton developer Vrancor Group, was a $200-million plan that would add two mid-rise office buildings to the area, see renovations to the FirstOntario Centre and FirstOntario Concert Hall and expand the convention centre.

The second bid, which contained the winning proposal, was a $500-million collaborative effort from the Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group (HUPEG), which includes Carmen’s Group, dpai architects, Fengate Capital, Jetport Inc., LiUNA, Meridian Credit Union and Paletta International.

The proposal from HUPEG consists of a $50-million renovation of FirstOntario Centre, which includes a new building exterior, transformation to the lower bowl, expanded concourse level and the inclusion of amenities such as a microbrewery and suites. The group is also planning to better develop the York Boulevard and Bay Street sides of the building to increase accessibility so that people can experience services outside the Centre year-round.

In addition to arena renovations, HUPEG’s proposal also includes over $16-million in capital upgrades to the Convention Centre, Concert Hall and Art Gallery of Hamilton. Several high-rises will be built, with others possible as part of the project. An estimated $340.5-million would be spent in mixed-use development, which promises affordable housing.

The announcement of HUPEG’s winning bid came during the City Council meeting on Friday, July 17. According to a press release made following the announcement, HUPEG would take over responsibility for the operations and maintenance of the FirstOntario Centre and FirstOntario Concert Hall for a period of 99 years, and of the Convention Centre indefinitely, without any monetary contribution from the City. According to the City, this move will create $155-million in savings over the next thirty years.

The master agreement for the project is still be finalized, with the timeline estimating arena renovations will start in the fall of 2021.

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