For 15 years, the city has been trying to get its hands on Piers 7 and 8 so it can develop Hamilton’s waterfront. And on Wednesday, it came a step closer to happening.

The general issues committee voted to sign an agreement with the Hamilton Port Authority (HPA) to the authority to manage the marina Piers 7 and 8.

And while the marina management is the main part of the agreement, the more important element was that it terminates a lease that will lead to developing the city’s waterfront, Coun. Brian McHattie said.

“That’s the real highlight of this, to bring those lands back into our full ownership and our control,” McHattie said.

“This is really a milestone day.”

'All great cities in the world have great waterfronts.' - Coun. Sam Merulla

The city has owned the land at Piers 7 and 8 since 2000, but has been leasing them to the port authority. HPA's Pier 7 lease would have ended in 2015, and the Pier 8 lease in 2025. But last year, the authority agreed to terminate the lease early.

When the land is back in the city’s hands, it hopes to invite developers to build 1,600 residential units on Pier 8 and 13,000 square feet of commercial institutional space. It will bring it about $7.5 million in property taxes per year, said Chris Phillips, manager of waterfront initiatives.

The city has been negotiating for 15 years to get its hands on the waterfront land, said Coun. Chad Collins of Ward 5.

Coun. Sam Merulla of Ward 4 called Wednesday’s vote a landmark day.

“We have taken so many baby steps to this one giant step that’s before us today,” he said.

“All great cities in the world have great waterfronts.”

Under the new 25-year agreement, the HPA will operate the marina until 2039. The authority has already approved the agreement in principle. City council will ratify the general issues committee vote on April 9.

In approving the agreement, councillors also voted to spend $14 million on projects such as shoreline protection and marina upgrades and capital improvements. 

The HPA issued a media release immediately after the vote, hailing the future of a "vibrant, mixed-use harbour."

“We worked closely with the city to make this agreement happen," said Bruce Wood, HPA president and CEO.

"It is a win-win that serves the interests of residents by allowing the West Harbour development plan to move forward, while being consistent with HPA’s mandate of operating a prosperous commercial port."

Under the agreement, HPA would lease a new city-owned five-acre property south of Pier 22, adjacent to the city’s recycling facility.