[dropcap]I[/dropcap]magine jumping out of bed in Burlington in the morning and being at your desk in downtown Toronto in an hour.
That might be possible for residents of five new high-rise condo buildings planned for vacant land between the Fairview Street GO station and the Walmart superstore
The Molinaro Group intends to have more than 900 units – some available for purchase and others for rent – in the development, which could get started next year if it gets site plan approval from the City quickly.
The area has been identified as a mobility hub, a term used by regional transit planning authority Metrolinx to describe housing and commercial intensification around transportation nodes, such as GO stations. It creates opportunities for commuters to get around without relying on automobiles.
The complex also would assist the City in meeting the demands of the provincial government about increasing population by infilling.
The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) already has ruled that the buildings can be a maximum of 20 stories and that there is no limit on the number of units.
But some Burlingtonians are not all that happy with the proposal.
Brad Boles, who owns a home on Maplewood Drive on the south side of Fairview Street and will be living in the shadow of the high-rise buildings, attended a recent workshop held to allow residents some input on site planning matters, such as design, land-scaping, amenity features, streetscaping, lighting and suggestions for the ground floor commercial units.
“There was a lack of communication on this from the beginning,” Boles said. “The provincial government made changes that impact the region without giving it the tools to handle those changes.”
“Thursday night (meeting) was a farce,” he said. “It was just a smoke and mirrors situation.
“The meeting was about how green space should be handled. Most people have a defeatist attitude, like the City already has made up its mind on this development
“I’m not against a development there, but 17 or 20 stories is not a correct structure.”
Boles also is concerned about the noise of trains echoing off the buildings and disturbing homeowners on the south side of Fairview Street. Close to 100 trains a day – including GO, Amtrak, VIA Rail and freight – travel along the tracks every day.
The development will include three buildings at the back of the property in line with the train tracks and two more at the front, facing on to Fairview Street.
Ground level walkways will connect the complex with both the GO station and the Walmart store.
Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward sees the project as a positive move.
“I’m supportive of redeveloping lands near our transit stations,” she said. “Burlington GO has been identified as a mobility hub by the province, and major commercial/residential redevelopment is expected to take place along mobility hubs and GO lines.
“This development, done well, can be a catalyst to redevelopment along Fairview from strip plazas and parking into a complete streetscape that is as enjoyable to walk or cycle as drive.”
Meed Ward said the City’s focus now is to make sure it does not become a vertical suburb.
She suggests this can be done by giving some serious thought to the amenities that go with the buildings, ensuring traffic gets in an out safely and considering what the visual impact of 20-storey buildings will be for neighbors.
“These are the kinds of things we can influence at this stage,” she said.
“If you’re going to have intense development, it should be near transit like a GO station.
“But the whole point of putting it near a GO station is that people will need to use their cars less.”
GO Transit is also continuing its initiative to bring service every 15 minutes during rush hour and every 30 minutes during non-rush hour times to the Lakeshore West line.
Sam DiSanto of The Molinaro Group said the company is going to do a traffic impact study, even though it is not required to.
A few years ago Ward 2 residents fought hard against location of the Walmart store on Fairview, near Brant Street.
However, because of careful road design, traffic congestion has not been as big a problem as many people thought it would be.