I don’t know where LRT is headed, but the thing I remember most from the marathon city council session that closed out March-is that traffic is projected to increase by 60 percent on Aberdeen Avenue because drivers will be avoiding King Street and tie ups at the 403 ramps.
That snapped me to attention because we live on Bay Street North and I suppose we could have faced the same funnel of traffic had an LRT spur line been approved for James Street North.
But this column isn’t about LRT it’s about paying attention.
When we moved to the North End in 1984 not many people were interested in it, and some people were downright scared of it. Now it’s hot as a gold rush town.
Consider what’s been proposed in the last couple of months. Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr won support for selling a piece of surplus land the city owns across from the entrance to Bayfront Park. It will be developed possibly for affordable housing. He’s also trial- ballooning the idea of selling a section of Eastwood Park in order to renovate the aging arena. That land could be used for affordable housing.
On James Street North near Picton Street, there’s a proposal by the Hughson Street Baptist Church to build four stories of affordable housing.
Next to the historic Custom House on Stuart Street, and across from the West Harbour Go station, a public notice recently went up for a proposal to build an 11 story mixed use development including 77 residential units. The current height restriction at that location is four stories.
If you weren’t paying attention you would have missed one more development proposal of a perplexing nature. Some residents of the North End received an invitation in their mailbox to “a discussion about development of a new form of housing for the North End neighbourhood.” The invite came from John van Nostrand, a Toronto architect/planner.
A few months ago van Nostrand finished a paid consulting job to produce a West Harbour Investment Guide for a partnership including the City of Hamilton, Hamilton Community Foundation and Evergreen. But, at the meeting he convened in the North End he was now representing a company called John van Nostrand Developments. So… fresh from a job researching planning and zoning in the West Harbour he returns as a developer. The rambling proposal suggests van Nostrand Developments will purchase land in the North End and sell finished or partially finished homes that people can finish themselves. Home ownership, geared to affordability, could be shared with family and friends and houses sublet if needed. His proposal calls for units as small as 225 sq.ft. At the meeting, which I attended, van Nostrand said he’s looking for land and looking to develop it. He’s got more meetings planned in the neighbourhood.
It makes your head spin. These projects and proposals are in addition to Pier 7 and 8 developments, and the remix in store for the aging City Housing developments in the North End. In late March, a West Harbour Community Conversation meeting confirmed that the Jamesville CityHousing Hamilton (CHH) complex on James North will be demolished and rebuilt. It will be bigger and include a mix of geared to income housing, and affordable units priced below the market rate. The city is looking for private developers interested in building it.
At the 17-story Ken Soble tower, another City Housing property, at the foot of MacNab Street, Sean Botham, a development manager at City Housing said the entire building will be renovated. Two plans are on the table-kind of cheap, and kind of not. The more expensive one would be a “deep energy retrofit”. All the units would be geared to income. As for the upscale residential development at Pier 8, city waterfront boss Chris Phillips projected that the first move in dates for residents would be 2021. Before the peeps move in, the city’s goal is to finish Promenade Park by 2018. The water’s edge park has a budget of $6.7 million and will go through a design competition.
There’s a lot percolating in the North End, and some of the harbour’s historic shoreline has already been revamped and polished. But things are brewing throughout the city, and so much of it lives in a foggy date in the future that it’s tempting to tune it out.
My advice, watch for the rezoning signs, read the papers, check your mailbox for mysterious invites and pay attention.