New industrial park will be on Victoria Street North at old Studebaker factory

City hall has tweaked its rules to allow one of Hamilton’s largest ever brownfield projects to move ahead.

UrbanCore Developments is building a new industrial park at the former Otis Elevator and Studebaker plants, a 10.5-hectare (26-acre) brownfield site off Victoria Street North.

On Wednesday, the developer behind the Freeman Industrial Park praised the city for changing its grant process to make assessing the site’s environmental risks move a little faster.

Instead of having to go through the provincial Ministry of Environment for a risk assessment, which could take three years, the company just has to get its own assessment peer reviewed.

That means the project will go faster, and also put the company in line for about $4 million in city grants, said developer Sergio Manchia. Those breaks will come in the form of perks such as tax credits and lower development charges.

“This is not just a one-project win,” he said. “It’s a win because there’s a lot of these brownfield sites where people just won’t touch them. This is a little more friendly approach.”

The proposed park at 440 Victoria St. N. would include light manufacturing companies, including some geared to health sciences. Most of the buildings have already been demolished, and the former Otis Elevator building will be offices. There are willing tenants for about half of the park, Manchia said, although he wouldn’t name them yet.

The change to the risk assessment process was possible because the land was zoned industrial and its use will still be industrial.

The company is currently doing soil remediation. Manchia also hopes to see a road through the park by the end of the year.

Manchia spoke about the project at a Wednesday general issues committee meeting. Councillors praised it.

“This is a very different project from what we’ve seen in the past and it represents a huge step forward from what we’ve seen,” Coun. Brian McHattie said.