Special Report: Lister Block

Step Back

We will set a precedent with Lister ­ either destroy and rebuild or lovingly restore and pass on a spectacular built heritage for generations to come.

By Jason Leach
Published March 01, 2006

Downtown Bureau

I am delighted to hear that our precious Lister Block might not be in as poor condition as initially thought.

As we've stated many times on this website, Hamilton's future lies in the past, bringing back busy, vibrant, walkable streets with wonderful streetscapes, and 19th and 20th Century buildings full of every imaginable type of shop and amenity. Art, music, theater. Butchers, bakeries and shoe repairs. Cafes, restaurants and ethnic eateries. The list goes on and on.

Hamilton's downtown was built for people to feel welcome and at home, not like roadkill on the side of the QEW as many areas feel today.

The Lister Block and James and King William is undoubtedly our largest eyesore, but is also our largest piece of history. Imagine filling it up with modern day offices or lofts and a ground floor/street level, humming with commerce, dining and simple patio-lounging, watching the world go by.

We fully support city council re-opening this issue to verify this recent report that has been presented. If, in fact, Lister can be saved for roughly the same cost of demolition and construction of a new building, we think it is a no-brainer.

Whether the building's owners, LIUNA and the Hi-Rise Group, agree is another matter, of course, but the last thing Hamilton needs is another box like the federal building constructed by one of these partners on Bay Street.

We want our Lister back. If it's possible, it's the best choice.

The attached report mentions some similar buildings that have been restored and brought back to life like the Lister. We took a quick 'web tour' of these sights and feel compelled to share them with you and with council. Imagine our Lister full of life like these sites.

1. Gordon Square, Cleveland

This building was built 8 years earlier than Lister and is currently being renovated into a mixed-use project including Cleveland's oldest theatre being brought back on line. A heritage site from the early 1900's being used for culture and commerce is fantastic.

2. Chum/City TV Building, Toronto

We all know this building. Again, full of life, street presence and a Toronto landmark. The same certainly can't be said for any of the bland office towers down the street near Bay and Yonge. Similar in size and presence as our Lister Block, this is a great example of what we could be looking at at King William and James. Substitute Hamilton brick for the concrete of City TV and watch our core turn around.

3. Parliament Hill, Ottawa

Canada's Parliament buildings were inspected by a Burlington engineer who did work on them and many other heritage buildings. He concludes that no significant structural damage has taken place at Lister. And he should know.

4. Amsterdam Park Fountain, Toronto

This fountain, made of terra cotta, was refurbished recently with a similar terra cotta used on the Lister Block. Despite what we've been told, terra cotta is not some impossible-to-find material that costs tons of money.

* * *

City council has an opportunity to demand the best for our city. The entire Gore/King William corridor is full of great history waiting to be restored. We will set a precedent with Lister ­ either destroy and rebuild or lovingly restore and pass on a spectacular built heritage for generations to come.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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