By Kathy Renwald
A revised design for a proposed 45-storey tower on the waterfront at Pier 8 was called refined and elegant by the design team at a virtual public meeting June 19th, but public reaction was mixed.
Though the meeting was called by the city and developer Waterfront Shores Inc. to gauge reaction to the polarizing high-rise, the format was restrictive and unsatisfying. The public could not speak at the meeting, and instead sent in questions via a chat line. No one could see the questions but the meeting facilitator. Some questions were dismissed as “comments” and went unanswered. Contrast that to an in-person city run town hall about encampments the same night where the public asked questions on a microphone for all to hear. Estimates on social media pegged attendance at the encampment meeting at nearly 600 people. About 50 people were online for the virtual 45-storey tower meeting according to the facilitator.
Project architect Bruce Kuwabara of KPMB highlighted features of the revised building design he called “lily”-which the public has seen before. Changes include a public observation deck that is about one storey off the ground, and space for a potential cafe in the podium section of the building. The flowing design of the building will better handle the windy site, and the potential for bird strikes could be mitigated by specially treated window glass the renowned architect said.
Due to the format of the meeting it was difficult to tally up the numbers of those for or against the proposed hi-rise residential tower. Several people did speak in favour of the building, endorsing the notion of a “landmark” building on the waterfront. As presenter and planner James Webb stated at the meeting, the “motivation is good design.” Others however stated that the 45-storey tower which would be linked to a 30-storey tower belongs with other towers in the centre of the city.
Another question challenged the complex route that led to the 45-storey tower proposal. From the beginning through the Setting Sail planning process, to public meetings, and an international design competition, the preferred concept was a village like cluster of townhome style buildings of 6 to 8 stories. City officials took several opportunities to state that the idea of a high-rise tower did not come from them, but was the result of an LPAT (Local Planning Appeal Tribunal) challenge by a small group of North End residents and a subsequent settlement. “The settlement outcome was simply this -the city agreed to consider residential development on Block 16, there was no pre-established height that was assigned to it,” said planner James Webb.
Even with the 45-storey tower, the number of residential units would remain the same at 1,645. The mix of a tower and stacked condos or townhomes would result in more two- and three-bedroom units that could be occupied by families. There was not much info on a pledge to make five percent of the units “affordable” through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
A drop-in information centre on the tower proposal is set for Thursday June 22 from 6:00 PM until 8:00 PM at the Discovery Centre on Pier 8. There will be no presentation.
Public comments can also be sent to the Development Planner reviewing the file, Mark Kehler – Senior Planner by email Mark.Kehler@Hamilton.ca or by phone at 905-546-2424, ext. 4148
A recording of the virtual public meeting can be viewed at: https://www.hamilton.ca/sites/default/files/2023-06/waterfront-pier8block16-communitymeeting-presentation-Jun2023.pdf