3 new skyline-changing projects in the works, including a 'landmark' highrise

Hamilton politicians approved three skyline-changing projects this week that will bring four towers and more than 1,000 new residential units to the downtown and west end.

Hamilton's manager of economic development says LRT is bringing more development

The tower at 71 Rebecca will be a downtown landmark, says Coun. Jason Farr. (dpai architecture inc.)

Hamilton politicians approved three skyline-changing projects this week that will bring four towers and more than 1,000 new residential units to the downtown and west end.

There's a strong correlation between development interest we're seeing and the  LRT  project.- Jason Thorne , manager of planning and economic development

City councillors granted rezoning for a 30-storey tower at 71 Rebecca St., a future "downtown landmark" that will be one of the tallest buildings in Hamilton. They also approved a 25-storey tower mere blocks away at 49 Walnut St. S., and two connected west-end towers — one 16 storeys, one 18 — for Columbia International College students.

"It was a big day," said Jason Thorne, general manager of planning and economic development, after a six-hour planning meeting Tuesday.

The flurry had some talking about the link between the projects and the planned light rail transit (LRT) system. The downtown projects are within two blocks of the route. The Ainslie Wood project is located at an LRT stop.

Thorne says that's not an unrealistic link.

In 2010, the Canadian Urban Institute report predicted economic uplift if the project went ahead. Last year, the Region of Waterloo said it has seen about $2.1 billion in development along its LRT corridor.

Most of the people making those investments are making them because of the good things already happening in the city.- Coun . Chad Collins

The developers, in their presentations Tuesday, referenced transit as a selling point, Thorne said. And his department has seen more developers pitching projects with LRT in mind.

"There's a strong correlation between development interest we're seeing and the LRT project," he said. "(Developers) are citing it as something that is encouraging them to invest where they're investing."​

Jason Farr, who represents Ward 2 downtown, was anxious to draw the link. There's more than $1 billion in development happening downtown, he said. That's not directly because of LRT, but most of those developers support LRT. That includes Vrancor and LiUNA.

Chad Collins, a Ward 5 councillor and LRT skeptic, saw little correlation. The projects Tuesday would have happened anyway, he said. 

"Most of the people making those investments are making them because of the good things already happening in the city." 

We do not build buildings to fall over.- Sergio Manchia

Metrolinx is about $100 million into a new 14-kilometre LRT system that would run from McMaster University to Stoney Creek's Eastgate Square. The agency is looking at consortiums to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the system. The province has committed $1 billion to building it.

Last week, however, Metrolinx halted LRT-related property acquisitions. Mayor Fred Eisenberger said new premier Doug Ford told him he's still committed to the project.

The Hamilton project is the only one on hold.

Here are the new projects:

925 Main W./150 Longwood Rd. S.

Columbia International College hopes to build a two-tower student residence. (Urban Solutions)

This proposal is for two towers — one 16 storeys, one 18 — with a four-storey podium connecting them. It includes 1,420 square metres of commercial space, an underground parking garage, four recreational sports fields and 512 residential units (1,024 beds) for Columbia international College students. The owner is Plaza Imports Ltd., and the applicant is Columbia International College.

The planning committee voted 7-3 to allow the zoning change. City council has to ratify that on Sept. 12.

There is opposition though. Environment Hamilton warns that using fill to artificially building out a slope by about 14 metres risks the building tipping or splitting from erosion. Hamilton Conservation Authority staff recommended rejecting the project, although the authority board ultimately approved it.

Sergio Manchia of UrbanSolutions told councillors there will be studies ensuring slope stability.

"We do not build buildings to fall over."

Developers plan two towers with 512 units for Columbia International College at the corner of Longwood Road and Main Street West. (City of Hamilton)

154 Main St. E. and 49 Walnut St. S.

This project would see a 25-storey, 80-metre mixed use building with 267 residential units, ground floor commercial space, and parking for 253 vehicles. Right now, there's a two-storey office building and a parking lot there. The project owner is 1970703 Ontario Inc.

71 Rebecca St.

Local architect David Premi is designing the 30-storey tower at 71 Rebecca St. (dpai architecture inc.)

Sonoma Development Group Inc. plans a 30-storey mixed-use tower that some councillors say will be a new downtown landmark.

Designed by architect David Premi, the tower will be at 71 Rebecca St., a former bus terminal currently leased to Urban Core Community Healthcare. The old terminal will be demolished. 

The project will be 30 storeys, to a maximum height of 97 metres. Originally, the developer wanted 40 storeys, Farr said, but city staff encouraged Sonoma to reduce that in light of the new downtown secondary plan. That plan says buildings can't be taller than the Niagara Escarpment.

"The design has very much got the potential of being a landmark downtown," Farr said.

Here's how it will measure up on the city's skyline: 

  • Landmark Place: 43 storeys, 127 metres.
  • Royal Connaught (phase three): 123.37 meters.
  • 20/22 George St. condo tower (Vrancor, under construction): 32 storeys, 106 metres.
  • Stelco Tower: 25 storeys, 103 metres.
  • 71 Rebecca: 30 storeys, 97 metres.
  • BDC building: 22 storeys, 91 metres.

Clarifications

  • This story has been modified to provide more detail about the Hamilton Conservation Authority staff and board actions as it relates to the Columbia International College student residence.
    Sep 11, 2018 1:05 PM ET

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca