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Hollywood North to expand into Hamilton

Dena Fehir
Hollywood North to expand into Hamilton

A colossal production hub for film, television and digital media is staged for to be built in Hamilton.

Toronto-based Aeon Studio Group have announced a plan to build 500,000 square feet of stage space on the now, city-owned, Barton-Tiffany lands — aiming for the first 150,000 square feet to be operational within a year.

Through its affiliate — Hamilton Studios Ltd. — and the City of Hamilton, a city council ratified memorandum of understanding has been signed that lays out the business framework for the purchase and sale of the property.

“Hamilton is the perfect place for a production hub in the west-end of the Greater Toronto Area because of its proximity to diverse filming locations, thriving arts and culture workforce, limited traffic congestion and because productions that film there qualify for additional tax credits,” said Mike Bruce, one of the ASG partners.

The Hamilton Studio District’s vision is a live-work-play development that will include:

  • Film and television production campus with purpose-built modern soundstages, production offices, support facilities, and backlot;
  • Other studios for post-production, animation, visual effects, game development and music;
  • Crew training facility, headquarters for the local talent pool and job creation effort;
  • Office buildings for film industry suppliers and media, digital and tech companies;
  • Collaborative, affordable and creative workspaces geared towards the enrichment of the artistic and creative industry community; and
  • Residential/retail space, including two residential towers and public open space that is pedestrian oriented and provides community connectivity.

The ASG plan is aimed to contribute to the current rejuvenation underway in Hamilton which is poised to clean up the space and add new vitality to the West Harbour with a 15-acre mixed use development for the creative sector.

The Barton-Tiffany lands were mainly industrial, most notably the Rheem water heater factory, which had a large presence on the site for many years. In 2010, Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger pushed for a new stadium for the Tiger Cats to be built on that site, but in February 2011 council voted for the current site in the east end of Hamilton to replace the former Ivor Wynne Stadium.

In reaction to the film/tv hub, Eisenberger said, “This film and production hub will create high-value, high-paying jobs for people in the film industry right here in Hamilton. It will see the rejuvenation of a brown field located in the heart of our city, and see this area transformed into a beautiful, campus-like environment, fully accessible to the community and conveniently located next to the West Harbour GO station and near our future LRT.”

The project is forecast to create hundreds of local construction jobs and thousands of local jobs in the media, digital and supporting industries. There are also plans to build a pipeline of talent from local schools into full membership in the industry unions.

“This is a win-win for the community. Not only are we getting a new investment worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but we will be remediating a former industrial site that has sat vacant for years. Fantastic news for this area,” said Jason Farr, Hamilton’s Ward 2 councillor.

From 2017 to 2018, Hamilton saw a 50 per cent increase in film permits — issuing 811 in 2018.

In 2018, the direct spend as a result of film permits was $60-million which includes hotel stays, rental of properties, rental fees for city parking and city-owned facilities.

Over 130 productions filmed in Hamilton last year, including major productions such as the Handmaid’s Tale — Season 3, Murchoch Mysteries, The Umbrella Academy and the Shape of Water.

“Creative industries are very much one of our key focuses in Hamilton and this investment means new jobs, new taxes and new focus on this city,” said Glen Norton, Hamilton’s economic development director. “We look forward to finalizing this purchase agreement and start the development process as soon as possible.”

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