McMaster Park progress remains on track
CANMET building fronts rendering held by Zach Douglas
Today’s global economic virus has infected financial and business activities around the world. And McMaster Innovation Park is not immune to the uncertainty.
But prospects for the 37-acre site at Longwood Road South and Aberdeen Avenue – in the heart of what Hamilton hopes will be an innovation district – still appear bright. Occupancy of the first building, a four-storey complex, likely will be in the 90 per cent range by the end of the year.
“I have a very positive feeling about that,” says Zach Douglas, president and chief executive at the park. “Not all innovation parks are successful ... but our affiliation with a university that has significant strengths in research and the ability to develop significant new products and innovations is a good sign for the future.”
Douglas expects that, by mid-2010, some equipment might be arriving for the CANMET materials technology lab facility. That project will bring about 100 jobs from Ottawa. And he is hopeful a hotel proposal – an earlier deal fell through – will materialize. What remains a
question mark, however, are research units planned by the domestic auto industry.
General Motors, a company in the throes of massive shrinkage, and Ford Motor Co. have each planned a presence at the park. GM had talked about a corrosion research centre, perhaps working hand-in-hand with McMaster’s own steel research centre, and Ford had
discussed a diesel engine lab. Now, both projects may be on shaky ground.
“We’re anxiously watching to see if those things do materialize in the wake of what’s happening,” said Douglas. It may well be that some aspects of what was conceived as an emerging technologies centre, with a strong automotive focus, will get rolled into the 186,000-squarefoot, four-storey existing structure now being redeveloped.
The 155,000 sq. ft. CANMET facility will house high-end industrial technologies, such as materials characterization and imaging, industrial radiography, analytical testing labs, hydrogen sulphide high pressure labs, and computer modeling operations.
Of course, the innovation park (MIP) had lined up financing well before the current economic troubles began drying up credit and financing lines for many businesses. And the redevelopment, utilizing an existing shell, has reduced costs. Douglas estimates MIP’s construction costs at $120 a square foot, versus perhaps $250 for a new structure.
MIP backers foresee as many as 3,000 jobs there over the next decade or so. By 2011, the park – developed in a north-south direction – may contain as many as five buildings, comprising a total 500,000 sq. ft. Plans call for a life sciences building, including an incubator for business start-ups, that would be located closer to Aberdeen.
When completed, the park – formerly the home of a Camco appliance plant – will house laboratory, office, teaching, training and conference facilities in advanced manufacturing and materials, in nanotechnology and bio-technology, and in other areas in which McMaster has
recognized research strengths.
The city envisions the park as the anchor for its west Hamilton innovation district, with Frid Street being extended southerly into the research complex. MIP’s convenient exposure, just
off Highway 403, means that “we have not seen a dramatic dropoff in recent interest” on the part of prospective tenants, said Douglas.