Hamilton has some cities to look up to when it comes to developing its waterfront, but Toronto isn't one of them.

If the city develops the waterfront the way it plans, it will look more like Halifax than Toronto, says Coun. Chad Collins in a tour of Pier 8 with CBC Hamilton Thursday morning.

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An aerial view of Pier 8. (City of Hamilton)

"If someone was to compare our plan to another municipality, we're certainly not looking at what Toronto has done, which is cut people off from the waterfront and limit their views," he said. "We're looking at something more of the scale and nature of Halifax."

The plan to develop the waterfront, in the works for about a decade, leapt forward Wednesday. The general issues committee voted to sign a long-awaited agreement with the Hamilton Port Authority to terminate leases for Pier 7 and 8.

The city has owned the land since 2000, but the HPA's Pier 7 lease would have ended in 2015, and the Pier 8 lease in 2025.

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Bayfront Park opened in 1992. (City of Hamilton)

The biggest prize is Pier 8, a large slab of land flowing east of Williams Fresh Cafe, Sarcoa and the skating rink.

The waterfront plan includes commercial shops and small hotels along the scale of James North and Locke Street, Collins said. It also includes 1,250 residential units. There will be a six-storey maximum.

City staff will come to council this summer with more information on the tax dollars needed to prepare for development, Collins said.

Future developments will require a sewer system, roads and other infrastructure, which will cost the city.

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Pier 4 Park in 1993. (City of Hamilton)

Determining those will likely take the rest of the year, with more specific development in 2014, he said.

Bill Curran, past chair of the Hamilton and Burlington Society of Architects and part of a group advocating for West Harbour development, says the sooner development happens, the better.

"It's great that it's going ahead," he said. "Getting people living down there in a proper, vital mixed-use community is going to be a great thing."

The North End Neighbours group also welcomes the redevelopment, secretary Sheri Selway said. They are "eager to meet our new neighbours."

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West Harbour Millennium Trail. (City of Hamilton)

"We look forward to participating in the design study for residential uses on Pier 8 when it gets underway," she said.

"We favour residential intensification with appropriate traffic management and protections for the stable residential character of the existing neighbourhood and its open spaces."

Scroll through our interactive timeline below to view two decades of activity that led to the current waterfront agreement.