For nearly a decade, Hamilton has been raising money and planning for the eventual expansion of the beloved Children’s Museum at Gage Park.
In 2021, the federal government provided the city with about $1.4 million toward the $4.3-million cost to add four large program spaces, create a barrier-free facility (including washrooms), a children’s garden and an elevator and provide an education program that reflects the city’s diverse community, as outlined in the project’s 2013 feasibility study.
But on Aug. 26, Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas Liberal MP and cabinet minister Filomena Tassi announced a further $450,000 for the museum construction, as part of a $3.6-million funding announcement to help move forward five other community projects throughout the city.
“I’m really fond of all of these projects,” said Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger. “But the children’s museum, I’ve been pining for a long time to see this expansion, (which) not only promotes accessibility, but provides more usable space for the museum, which is very, very popular.”
“It is a wise investment for the future people of this city,” Eisenberger continued. “It’s all about giving people an opportunity to enjoy their city.”
The other projects that will be receiving needed dollars for their respective projects include $750,000 for the $1.21-million creation of the Beasley Park pedestrian urban plaza; $750,000 to help repurpose the historic St. Mark’s Church at Bay and Hunter streets, which has sat empty since the city bought the property in the 1990s and will be developed into a cultural programming space at a cost of about $5.5 million; $694,000 to redevelop Victoria Park with a new spray pad, seating and sun shelter at a total cost of just over $1 million; $472,575 to install 487 touchless faucets in 81 city facilities, with the city picking up the rest of the $650,300 cost; and $492,682 to revamp the city’s Tourism Hamilton location on James Street North.
“We recognize the ongoing potential of this city,” said Tassi during the announcement, held in the historic Lister Block building on James Street North, where the Tourism Hamilton office is located. “We are here to ensure to make that potential into reality.”
City manager Janette Smith said the $3.6-million investment into the community projects will help fulfill an important action of the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Recovery to boost the city’s tourism sector.
“This major investment will drive tourism and provide accessibility,” Smith said.
Jeff Erbach, manager of placemaking, public art and projects, said many of the projects will be completed in 2023 and 2024, with exhibits and programs to be introduced in 2024-2025.
“We are building extraordinary spaces and turning spaces into places that people want to spend time in,” he said.
The Tourism Hamilton location will be one such place, to be called the Visitor Experience Centre, where it will be transformed into a mixed-media presentation with new technology and an emphasis on the city’s tourism and heritage and highlight the rich contributions by Hamilton’s diverse communities .
Ryan McHugh, manager of tourism and events, said there will be a large touch screen that will be connected to the city’s website to provide information to the public, a new digital projector, flexible museum shelving for its retail operations, improved community spacing at the rear of the office and, in the center of the tourism office, various exhibits that will “tell the Hamilton stories” of the city’s diverse peoples.
The museum’s distinctive Italian blue, white and gray flooring will also be replaced with a neutral design, much to the relief of Eisenberger.
“It has always got your attention,” Eisenberger said. “But it’s distracting.”
McHugh said staff are considering new signage for the front of the heritage building to better reflect the tourism office to the community. He said the project is scheduled to be completed by March 31, 2023.