City officials and a new studio group have announced plans to build a massive film and TV hub on the Barton-Tiffany Lands in central Hamilton.
Aeon Studio Group (ASG) said Tuesday it has signed a city council-ratified memorandum of understanding that lays out the business framework for the purchase and sale of the city-owned lands.
The plan is to build the “Hamilton Studio District,” which is being pitched as a “live-work-play development” that will include a production campus, studios for post-production, animation and visual effects, a crew training facility, office buildings and more.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the city of Hamilton,” Mayor Fred Eisenberger told reporters at the announcement at Bayfront Park.
“Having this infrastructure in place is going to have a massive impact on the culture of our city.”
Residential and retail space is also planned for the development, with two residential towers and “public open space that is pedestrian oriented,” ASG said in its announcement.
Robbie David, one of the co-founders of ASG, said the plan is to have a “purpose-built” studio in place by next summer. It could be five to 20 years before the project is at “full completion,” he said.
David said he “didn’t want to talk about costs,” but estimated the project will cost hundreds of millions of dollars by the time it’s finished.
ASG and the city say the project will clean up and develop the Barton-Tiffany lands, add “new vitality” to the West Harbour area, and create hundreds of local construction jobs and thousands of local jobs in supporting industries.
During Eisenberger’s first term as mayor, he fought for a new stadium for the Ticats to be built in that space — a fight he ultimately lost.
“I’m still in therapy on that one,” Eisenberger joked.
“I can only imagine a stadium and a film studio would be spectacular, but we’re past that,” he said.
According to city statistics, Hamilton is the second busiest film location in Ontario, with over 9,000 film workers living in the city.
From 2017 to 2018, Hamilton saw a 50 per cent increase in film permits, with 811 issued last year.
Hamilton saw $60 million spinoff from those permits last year, the city says, citing hotel stays, rental properties and more.
The city has featured prominently in major productions in recent years, and can be seen in films like The Shape of Water and It, as well as series like The Umbrella Academy and The Handmaid’s Tale.
Film crews are drawn to Hamilton by the city’s diverse filming locations, creative talent and funding opportunities, said Mike Bruce, co-founder of ASG.
“Despite all this, Hamilton has very little studio infrastructure,” Bruce said.
“We have the talent, we have the experience, and soon, we’ll have the infrastructure.”