The city is taking control of critical land it owns on Hamilton's waterfront, and plans to open it up to developers.
Councillors voted Tuesday to terminate leases with the Hamilton Port Authority (HPA) for Piers 7 and 8, waterfront lands they envision will soon have bustling commercial and residential properties.
If the land is developed according to council's plan, it will change the face of Hamilton, said Coun. Chad Collins.
"It's an image changer not just for the waterfront, but the city as a whole."
The big prize is Pier 8, which is the large slab of land flowing east of Williams Fresh Cafe, Sarcoa and the skating rink.
The city acquired the piers in 2000 as part of a sweeping rearrangement of port ownership that came out of a court battle between the city and the federal government.
But part of the settlement was a ruling that meant use of the lands stayed in the hands of the Hamilton Port Authority. It had 15- and 25-year leases that allowed it to keep the lands in port uses. Collins said. The city has been trying to gain back use of the land ever since.
The city will sign a memorandum of understanding with HPA for lease transfer and partial early termination. The HPA's lease on Pier 7 was scheduled to expire in 2015. The Pier 8 lease expired in 2025. Large portions of the land are currently being used for storage.
The HPA worked with the city "every step of the way" to reach the agreement, said Bruce Wood, president and CEO.
"The transfer of the property at Piers 7 and 8 is an exciting and important step in the ongoing development of the West Harbour, and we are pleased to do our part," he said in an email.
As part of the agreement, HPA will lease a city-owned property south of Pier 22, adjacent to the city's recycling facility, Wood said.
"We have been experiencing exceptional growth in the last five years, so we can make good use of new available space, bringing new business activity to Hamilton."
Developers are already interested in building on Pier 7 and 8, and have been for years, city manager Chris Murray said. There could even be development in the next two years.
"This is one of those situations where we don't have to drag anyone to a meeting to get them interested in this part of Hamilton," he said.
Residents are in favour of developing the piers too, Coun. Bernie Morelli said.
"I can tell you when I look (at the plan), I can't help but be excited."
Tom Raczynski was one of about half a dozen Hamilton residents fishing off the pier on Wednesday. He worries that new development will mean the end of fishing there.
He likes the idea of residential and commercial development better than a previous council idea, which was putting a stadium there.
"(Councillors) come up with some humdingers," he said.
But the right development would make a positive difference.
"As far as making Hamilton better, yeah, it'd be great."