New plan for landmark tower narrowly gets approval, faces ratification vote in Hamilton
Published November 15, 2023 at 6:11 pm
Projected to rise 147 metres in height, a proposed 45-storey condo tower was praised for its potential to revive the waterfront and serve as a landmark in Hamilton. At the same time, concerns were raised about the building at the Pier 8 site becoming an eyesore and not fitting in with the City’s goals for a climate-friendly and “inclusive” community.
With seven councillors voting for it and five against it, Hamilton council narrowly approved the revised application for the waterfront building during the planning committee meeting Tuesday (Nov. 15). The proposal is headed for a ratification vote next week.
Now in phase 2 of the planning process, the proposed “block 16” condo tower at 65 Guise St. is among the nine development blocks on the Pier 8 site. The revised plan for the mixed-use residential building has an increased height of 45 stories from eight, and 364 affordable housing and family units. It’s unknown how many of the tower’s units will be affordable housing, however, five per cent of the 1,645 units at the entire Pier 8 site will be geared towards that purpose.
The Pier 8 site is part of Hamilton’s massive West Harbour redevelopment project that aims to transform the waterfront into a vibrant, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly and transit-friendly destination. Pier 8 already has a park, public space, roads, sidewalks, an ice rink, William’s Fresh Cafe and the Discovery Centre.
The City said the proposed tall building is meant to be seen as a landmark, serving as a visual anchor within the waterfront that signifies the revitalization of the Hamilton Harbour.
Ward 2 Councillor Cameron Kroetsch, who represents the North End neighbourhood where the tower could be located, was among five councillors who voted against it.
He said the project was supposed to represent the renewal of Hamilton but he felt it was not “inclusive.”
Based on discussions he had with thousands of Ward 2 residents over the years, he said they were predominantly opposed to the tower because they didn’t think it was “ the right development for the neighbourhood.”
“People felt excluded from the process, they felt excluded from this development, and they didn’t see themselves there,” Kroetsch told council Tuesday.
A constant question residents kept asking him was: “Who is the penthouse on the 45th storey for?” He raised concerns that the units would mostly be at price points most people can’t afford and questioned whether any of the units would ever be sold to a single family.
“I think this kind of policymaking will leave many Hamiltonians behind,” he explained. “We can’t pretend that there’s no link between our housing policies, the messages we send and the kinds of communities we want to build and create. I don’t think this is the kind of community we want to build and create so I won’t be supporting it.”
Ward 8 Councillor John-Paul Danko, who also rejected the plan, said he feared the landmark tower would stick out like a “sore thumb,” comparing it to Montparnasse Tower in Paris. While he said the development made sense for practical reasons, the original concept was based on the Parisian gold standard of being a pedestrian-oriented, low- to medium-rise development of about six to eight stories.
“Clearly the landmark tower was a very big deviation from what the original concept was,” he told council.
Finding the plan “a little underwhelming,” Danko said it could use more affordable housing, family friendly units and climate features given that the city declared a climate emergency and faces an affordable housing crisis.
“So we’re talking about … a landmark building but we’re not going to build it to net zero carbon. To me anyway, that’s an obvious miss,” he said. “That’s not in alignment with the goals and the stated council priorities.”
Ward 15 Councillor Ted McMeekin, who was among the seven councillors who backed the revised plan, said he hopes council would “embrace this exciting opportunity.”
As for concerns the development wouldn’t be inclusive, he said its mixed-use and possibly luxurious aspect would attract people to visit the waterfront and “say wow.”
“I hope when all is said and done, we don’t lose this opportunity,” he said, noting the project has been “kicking around” for years.
He praised the process of holding reviews on the design and building, the plans for some affordable units and design by a world-renowned architect. As well, he said it was significant that Habitat for Humanity supports the proposal.
‘Block 16’ Pier 8 tower slightly lower than Landmark Place
Council approved Tuesday the applications to redesignate the area from an institutional to mixed-use development and rezone the lands to permit a 45-storey, mixed-use building. The tower would have an extra 150 family units, totalling 396 family units.
Now in phase 2 of the block 16 planning process, the City-owned site is currently a parking lot, part of the nine development blocks on the Pier 8 site.
In a presentation to council Tuesday, senior planner Mark Kehler said the taller height for the tower would break the “uniformity” of the other Pier 8 buildings whose maximum heights are eight storeys. From a planning and design perspective, the increase in height is also meant to create a “landmark building” that would meet or exceed the requirements of the City in terms of sustainability, quality of life and design excellence that are emblematic of the Hamilton Harbour’s renewal, he said.
Kehler said the ground floor would have a lobby and non-residential space that could be used for retail, restaurants or institutional purposes. Townhouse-style units would be in the east and the second level would have residential amenities, an outdoor terrace and a lookout that would be publicly accessible.
The tower on block 16 is among nine development blocks on Pier 8, a future urban waterfront community. The entire Pier 8 site will have 1,645 residential units and over 1,400 parking spaces on about 13,000 square metres of commercial and institutional space.
For the Pier 8 proposal, 40 per cent of the total site area will be publicly accessible open space with extra “walkable landscape” connected to the City-owned parks and paths to the waterfront.
Chris Phillips, manager of the Hamilton’s Municipal Land Development Office, previously told inthehammer.com that the Pier 8 development is the only project in Hamilton that mandates an agreement with the developer that five per cent of units must be affordable housing. Habitat for Humanity plans to operate the affordable housing on the site.
“I think the only real obstacle is for people to look at how the new vision can actually accentuate Hamilton’s waterfront because a tower was never originally planned for the site,” he said.
For the entire Pier 8 site, he said 15 per cent of units must have at least two bedrooms so families could live in them.
The City is working with a consortium called Waterfront Shores, made up of three Toronto-based builders Tercot Communities, Cityzen Development Group and Greybrook Realty Partners, to develop the area.
“The (Pier 8) overall development will take between 10 and 15 years,” Phillips said. “We’re at the first stages of that development now. The tower is only one part of the overall development.”
Plans for all the buildings except the tower have been approved.
Phillips said the first condos to be built will be on blocks 3 and 6 whose units will start preselling later this year.
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to remove a few references to the condo tower potentially becoming the second-tallest building in Hamilton. We regret the error.
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