Sunday, May 26, 2013

Another Good Spec Article on Barton Street

I've been enjoying the series of articles the Spec has been publishing of late, including this latest one by Jon Wells.

A couple of parts I liked:

"Meanwhile, the new stadium under construction — home to the 2015 Pan Am Games and the Ticats in 2014 — is a wild card, in terms of its future impact on Barton Street's success, and so is the hospital. 

Football stadiums and hospitals — like casinos — are often considered "black holes" that people drop into for an activity and then leave, without having any economic or social spinoffs for the immediate community. 

But when done right, an arena or stadium — such as those built in downtown London, Ont., and downtown Detroit — can help create a whole new vibe. 

Premi and Shaker suggest that the stadium, if designed and managed with foresight to interact and open up to the community and businesses, could positively impact Barton.

The potential for benefits flowing from the health-care sector would seem to be much greater.
In 2016, McMaster Children's Hospital will open a new health facility on Wellington near Barton, which will offer greater health benefits to the community and perhaps attract more people to live in the area. 

As for Hamilton General Hospital, about 2,000 staff, volunteers, and patients come and go every day from the facility at Victoria and Barton. 

The Barton area has not yet felt a positive economic ripple effect from the hospital behemoth, although some staffers do wander off the property to frequent Hargitai's crêperie and Duartes."

It's interesting that hospitals are lumped in with casinos and stadiums as "black holes", but I noticed this myself when I moved near St. Joseph's Hospital downtown. Like the General, there's a lot of highly paid staff (including many physicians well into six figures in income) who work there, as well as patients from all walks of life, but there seemed to be little economic spinoff for the surrounding area. Part of that for St. Joseph's is that the commercial areas aren't directly across the street, but a little bit away. 

The General does have a commercial strip right across the street and it does seem like there's more momentum in that section in Barton (including the relatively new A&W). Hopefully the momentum continues.*

Comparing Barton Street to James North, I think it will be difficult for people to buy storefronts and become landlords. Instead I think the more likely scenario is somebody has an idea for a business that can bring people to Barton (a big if) and they buy a building themselves. The building prices are low enough, although whether one can get enough outsiders or locals is the question. Barton street does get a lot of auto traffic, so it isn't an abandoned part of Detroit.

James North real estate prices have already risen such that Barton pretty much has to be the next frontier. Definitely not for the faint of heart though.

*With regards to hospitals being economic black holes where no spending can emerge, what does this say for the new McMaster health centre downtown where the Board of Education headquarters was? Underwhelming?

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