On August 24th at a public meeting we will get to see what designers envision for the future Promenade Park to be built on Pier 8 at Hamilton’s West Harbour. This waters’ edge park is to be built before construction begins on 1,500 units of new housing.

For the first time in 90 years the City of Hamilton is holding a design competition for the creation of a park. The last one was held in 1928 and it resulted in the lovely  High Level Bridge and the Rock Garden.

Out of 14 firms that expressed interest in the competition, six teams were chosen to prepare designs for the park. At the August 24th meeting the public will be able to review the designs and submit comments on them. A jury will make the final selection.

There are no firms from Hamilton on the shortlist, though one Toronto firm, Janet Rosenberg & Studio has ties to Hamilton as the designer of the renovated Royal Botanical Gardens Rock Garden.

Having written about gardens forever it seems, and produced many TV shows about gardens in Ontario, Rosenberg’s work is familiar to me.

For many years her firm installed sparkling gardens at Canada Blooms. She created a wild and whimsical garden for the fantastic Flora Culture exhibition at the Port of Montreal, and her gardens in front of the Seagram Loft condos in Waterloo framed the site in dramatic fashion. For their work on the Rock Garden, the firm won an award of excellence from the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects.

My takeaway from her work is that it is inventive, fun, and bold. We need that on the Hamilton waterfront. I don’t know the work of the five other shortlisted firms, but let’s hope they too are looking at this opportunity with fresh eyes.

Promenade Park is small, 30 meters wide and just over 1 hectare. It will be the prime outdoor space for the Pier 8 development which might include 2,000 or so residents, but it will also be a park of city wide interest. Guidelines dictated by the city are a soup to nuts listing of wishes and wants including a trail, open views to the water, formal and informal spaces, tables and chairs, reference to the history of the waterfront, places to secure bikes and so on. The budget at about $6.5M seems tight.

Let’s hope that the urge to make everybody happy doesn’t squash the potential for inspiring design.

I just visited Cincinnati and marveled at the parks and trails along the Ohio River. The Ohio River Trail and Smale Riverfront Park are inspiring, with excellent and well tended gardens, gorgeous swings that  that nearly glide out over the Ohio River, and manmade streams with stepping stones that enthralled kids. The scale is much bigger than Promenade Park and the budget a stupendous $92M of government and private money. But the parks are managed by the Cincinnati Park Board and are immaculate, and miraculously free of geese thanks to a gadget called awaywithgeese.com. The device emits a solar powered beam of light at night that bugs the geese and causes them to move on.

The park and trail form a vital link from downtown Cincinnati to the riverfront, drawing families and sports fans visiting the beautiful riverfront stadiums built for the Cincinnati Reds baseball team and the Bengals of the NFL.

Well we don’t have a stadium on the waterfront, but we do have the potential to build a memorable park. Let’s hope there’s a big wow factor when the wraps come off the designs in late August.

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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