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How tall should Hamilton buildings be? City wants your take

Hamilton has had some dramatic proposals for tall buildings in the downtown core that would have an impact on neighbourhood character and help the city meet its growth goals. The city wants citizen input on how to deal with such proposals.

City sparks discussion on where tall buildings should go -- and where they shouldn't

A graph shows the four tallest Hamilton buildings. The 30-storey Connolly, approved for James St. S. is planned to be slightly taller than the Stelco Tower, 105.8 metres tall. (Licensed from SkyScraperPage.com )

Look up. Look way up. What should be on the Hamilton skyline?

It's a season of speculation and buzz around what will be built and how tall those buildings will be in Hamilton's downtown core. 

The last few months have brought forward some dramatic proposals for tall buildings in the downtown core that would have an impact on neighbourhood character and help the city meet its growth goals.

And the city wants you to have a say about those buildings.

Potential customers got a look at The Royal Connaught condo's penthouse plans on Thursday night. (John Rieti/CBC)
A meeting Tuesday night will include a presentation about the city blueprint for growth in the downtown core. People who attend the meeting will have a chance to discuss a few questions: 

  • What is tall within the Hamilton context?
  • Where should tall buildings be located?
  • Where should tall buildings not be located?
  • How can tall buildings compliment the unique topography of Hamilton's downtown?

A timely tower discussion 

One recent place the city planners thought a tall building should not go is the Tivoli theatre site.

City council went against their planners' and neighbourhood groups' recommendations to approve a 22-storey condo tower for the theatre site, ignoring statements in the planning staff report that warned the building would be too tall and too dense — out of place along the James Street corridor, mostly populated by mid-rise buildings.

A rendering of the 22-storey Tivoli condo tower. (tivolicondos.ca)
Up the street, there's the 30-storey Connolly building that was approved in January.

That project demonstrates something the city will be considering on other future projects: How much parking a building in the core needs. 

And there's also the Royal Connaught redevelopment, where developers plan to build three towers beside and behind the historic hotel, stretching up into the 30-storey range.

Here's how planners think of the three general sizes of development: 

  • Low-rise: 2 to 4 storeys
  • Mid-rise: 6 to 8 storeys
  • High-rise: 12 to 15 storeys

Clearly, many of the current buildings and proposals stretch higher than that.

But city planners will allow that as long as the tallest storeys are "terraced" or "stepped back," and address impacts like sun shadows and wind and impacts to heritage buildings. That was one of the compromises struck with the Tivoli proponents.

Here's a map of places where, as of 2013, city planners would consider certain building heights: 

A map of building height allowances city planners use to evaluate projects, made effective in 2013. (City of Hamilton)

In the map above, the green shading is parks. The very lightest purple is 3 to 6 storeys. The medium purples are 6 and 8 storeys. Dark solid purple is 12 storeys and the crosshatch-patterned dark purple is 15 storeys.

kelly.bennett@cbc.ca | @kellyrbennett

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