A historic but long-vacant East End Hamilton building is being reborn as Westinghouse HQ, the first project for a new local development company.
The former Canadian headquarters for electrical manufacturer Westinghouse Company, which has stood at 286 Sanford Ave. N. since 1917, is being transformed to become a centre for commercial and cultural activities.
“The building is built and renovated to a very high standard,” said Electric City Developments founder Meir Dick.
Westinghouse HQ history
The seven-storey Westinghouse HQ has been converted into 80,000 square feet of class-A commercial space, including a 10,000-square-foot, ground-floor event space and auditorium. The original brick and stone building was five storeys, but two more were added in 1928.
Dick said Electric City Developments and local investors led by family office Collyer Benson Capital vice-president Ray Hutton acquired the property in June 2017 for $2.6 million from local private sellers. They had acquired it a couple of years earlier to develop, but didn’t follow through.
Work on the building, which was originally designed by Prack & Perrine and received heritage status in 1988, began immediately and is now wrapping up. Dick said all of the leasable office space from the second floor up is ready for build-out and leasing. The remaining work on the ground floor will be completed by the summer.
The total cost of the redevelopment will be more than $13 million, according to Dick.
“That’s an enormous investment in the East End that people haven’t previously undertaken,” he said.
Westinghouse HQ refurbishment
The complete exterior of Westinghouse HQ is being preserved, including most of the more-than-360 windows in the building to provide plenty of natural light. Interior architectural features including marble flooring, intricate crown moldings, mosaic tiles, gigantic steel trusses, and columns and a stage in the first-floor auditorium are being preserved and enhanced.
Dick said the City of Hamilton has been “very supportive” and provided grants to aid with the heritage restoration of the building, which had been empty for more than 30 years. Westinghouse HQ’s new finishes and systems include photo-sensors, solar panels, heating systems and high-speed fibre for Internet.
“It’s built with environmental and sustainable values in mind, but there isn’t a particular designation that we have,” said Dick.
Westinghouse HQ leasing
McCallumSather is the lead architect, mechanical engineer and heritage consultant firm for Westinghouse HQ. The local company is also the first anchor tenant, occupying the second floor of the building since January. It will target a LEED Platinum certification for the space it’s occupying.
“We have two other floors that are spoken for right now,” Dick said.
That makes a total of three of the building’s long and narrow 10,000-square-foot floor plates which are leased.
While Dick said several companies have committed to space, he’s not yet prepared to reveal any further details. Leasing is being handled internally due to the uniqueness of the space, and prices start at $17 per square foot for a triple net lease.
“Construction, design and engineering firms are showing particular interest,” Dick said. “It resonates with them because it’s a beautifully constructed building.”
Equal Parts Hospitality has been enlisted as a partner to manage the ground-floor venue and auditorium space, which will have a European boutique hotel lobby aesthetic. It’s expected to become a community hub while hosting events, which can be booked by anyone, such as pop-up art galleries and concerts. It will also make picnic baskets available in the summer so people can enjoy them at the adjacent Woodlands Park.
Electric City Developments
Dick is an entrepreneur with a background in product development and startup companies, including:
* bridge7.ai, which provides on-demand cancer care consultation and expert insights;
* VISR, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify stress indicators from online language and image-based content;
* and Meta Inc., which uses artificial intelligence to organize and track more than 67 million biomedical research interests.
Dick formed Electric City Developments to specialize in “contextually responsive buildings that shape surrounding communities through thoughtful design and collaboration with local partners.” The company is initially focused on Hamilton’s East End and Dick said it’s looking at other potential projects, though none have been confirmed.
“We see ourselves as somebody who can become a leading developer in Hamilton and beyond. We’re really passionate about things like having a positive social and community impact.”
An Electric City Developments goal is to sell Hamilton more broadly to other businesses. Dick said there’s a strong case for companies from outside the city to move there for its rich architectural history, unique spaces and lower housing prices than can be found in nearby Toronto, Oakville or Burlington.
“If you haven’t been considering Hamilton as a place for your business, you’re not looking at where things are going,” Dick concluded.