Television City towers are too tall, planners say, but the developer is already appealing

A city planning report recommends rejecting rezoning the property for a pair of condo towers, but developer Brad Lamb says it doesn't matter.

A city planning report recommends rejecting rezoning the property, but Brad Lamb says it doesn't matter

The proposed Television City development at 163 Jackson St. W. consists of two towers - one 30 storeys, one 40 storeys. City planners are telling councillors not to approve it. The developer, Brad Lamb, says he's already appealed it to the Ontario Municipal Board. (Courtesy Lamb Development Corp.)

A sky-scraping Hamilton condo development is in for a fight now that the city seems poised to reject its rezoning. But the big-name developer behind it says he's already appealed it to a provincial board anyway.

Nothing ever goes easily or smoothly, especially when you want to build beautiful buildings.- Brad Lamb

City planners say councillors should reject Brad Lamb's proposal for Television City, two planned condo towers of 40 and 30 storeys at 163 Jackson St. W.

The towers wouldn't fit with the surrounding neighbourhood, says a staff report coming to city council's planning committee Tuesday. And they're incompatible with plans already laid out for the neighbourhood.

Jason Farr, Ward 2 councillor, says he's thought that "right from the get go."

"When I first met Brad and sat with him and staff, I suggested it might be a little too much on such a tight site."

The buildings would be 94.3 metres and 125 metres, and hold more than 600 units. The city says they wouldn't match the surrounding neighbourhood. (Courtesy of Lamb Development Corp.)

"I have not in my time seen so much (public) feedback contrary to a proposal."

But Lamb says he's not surprised or deterred by the staff report. That's why he appealed the project to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) Thursday — before next week's vote has even happened. 

Now "what (councillors) think and feel is … not irrelevant, but it's not the guiding course," said Lamb, who has four Hamilton projects in various stages.

"Nothing ever goes easily or smoothly, especially when you want to build beautiful buildings."

Television City, by all accounts, would permanently change the Hamilton skyline.

"What they think and feel is...not irrelevant, but it’s not the guiding course," says Brad Lamb of councillors' decision next week. (Rick Hughes/CBC)

The two buildings, taller than the escarpment, would hold a combined 618 units, plus four ground-floor commercial spaces. It would also have 397 parking spaces for vehicles and 500 for bicycles. 

The development is called Television City because it's located at the former CHCH Television studios. The plan incorporates the historic building there now, called Pinehurst Residence. The first tower, Lamb says, is sold out.

The proposal does help meet the city's goal of intensifying the downtown, the report says. But the twin tower concept is "over intensification."

The buildings don't "complement the surrounding massing, patterns, rhythm or character" of the neighbourhood around them, the report says.

The design also doesn't provide a height transition to the mostly two-storey buildings around it, which is typically done with a podium design.

Lamb dismisses the idea of the terraced look.

"There's a serious ailment going on in planning departments across Canada," he said. "It's called podium-itis."

"I have not in my time seen so much feedback contrary to a proposal," says Coun. Jason Farr of Television City. (Lamb Development Corp.)

If new buildings only fit with the ones next to it, he said, nothing would ever get built.

Lamb says he appealed to the OMB already because the Liberals are doing away with the board next year. The government will replace it with a Local Planning Appeals Tribunal, which is seen as less developer friendly.

Lamb says he'd rather negotiate Television City details with city staff. But he has to appeal while there's still an OMB.

"If Kathleen Wynne's government had not pulled the plug on the OMB, we would not be going to the OMB," he said. "Between the parties involved, there's absolutely going to be a settlement."

Television City would be higher than the Niagara Escarpment. (Lamb Development Corp.)

The staff report lists other issues.

People using balconies, it says, could look down into the backyards of single-family homes next door. And the towers will partially block the sun on surrounding sidewalks.

And the city's draft downtown secondary plan — which will go public Monday — only allows for 12 storeys in that location.

Any decision committee members make Tuesday will have to be ratified by city council on March 28.


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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