Is Hamilton’s commercial market being left behind?

Hamilton’s residential market experienced a hot 2014, and is expected to see a hot 2015 as well, but the city’s commercial market has been slow to pick up steam.

In fact, rents have been stagnant since the housing crash of 1989. “It’s been slowly coming back to pre-crash levels but vacancy rates are still hovering around 11 per cent [for downtown office spaces], according to numbers from the City of Hamilton,” said David Blanchard, local developer and vice-president of Wilson-Blanchard, a commercial investment firm in Hamilton.

He added that, with the new GO Transit station and other investments around the waterfront, local business owners and larger corporations could now be more inclined to set up offices in the city instead of other locations closer to Toronto, such as Brampton or Mississauga.

Glen Norton, manager of urban renewal at the City of Hamilton, said the city is seeing just that, albeit slower than they would like. He added: “We’re seeing more of a demand for downtown commercial spaces, but the problem is that some of the buildings need a lot of work and there are owners who don’t want to sell the land in hopes they’ll get a higher price in the future.”

“There are investors who want to buy and [revitalization] is desperately needed,” he continued. “The GO station will help bring people here, I believe, [and bolster us].”

Hamilton is certainly seeing a lot of small businesses setting up downtown, but a new City of Hamilton report said the city needs to draw larger companies to set up regional offices.

With new transportation hubs popping up this summer, that dream could be realized. “We have people who want to invest, develop their restaurants and retail spaces," said Elizabeth Parker, a real estate agent at Judy Marsales Real Estate Ltd.

"Ten years ago, it was very different… I attribute it to a lot of young entrepreneurs, under 30 and 40 years of age, who have businesses that are ready to expand or they have plans to open boutiques or shops.

“But with respect to vacancy rates, to find retail space in the core is very difficult at the moment.”


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