Remember when the pitch to build a 45 story residential tower in the West Harbour caught most people by surprise? That was in May, and even Mayor Fred Eisenberger said it was news to him.
The idea took another step toward legitimacy with a city run virtual meeting last night on just how such a high rise could fit in with the current development plan on Pier 8.
The virtual meeting was attended by roughly 60 citizens who heard city staff and members of the Pier 8 development team describe how design guidelines would apply to a building that would be the second highest tower in the city.
Many Hamiltonians are against high-rise buildings on the grounds they block views, create shade, alter wind, and introduce more people to the neighbourhood. On the flip side, the province wants more urban density. A high rise is a wise way to house a lot of people on a small piece of land, and increasing population helps support school, libraries, and retailers.
. The idea to build a 45 story tower on Hamilton’s popular waterfront germinated during a challenge of the Pier 8 development plan. The challengers Harbour West Neighbours wanted more “family sized” units in the planned low rise community. Somehow this led to an agreement between LPAT (formerly the OMB) and the group to consider two high rise towers on Pier 8 containing a percentage of two and three bedroom units.
Public views expressed at the meeting generally reflected an anti-tower sentiment. Pier 8 housing heights currently are set at four to eight stories. A 45 story tower (and it would be paired with a 43 story tower) would block views and as one resident said be “too showy” for the waterfront location.
Calvin Brook of the planning and design firm Brook Mcilroy, countered with the notion that a tower could be a visual beacon, seen from the Skyway and High Level Bridge, and would capture the public imagination. Brook was assisting the city in the design vision.
The potential for the buildings to be a hazard to birds generated many questions. Brook said there are ways to design structures that lessen the chance of bird strikes.
Any meeting about the waterfront generates questions about parking. For years parking has been ample at the sparsely developed West Harbour, with spots available so close to the waters edge, one could pet a carp swimming by.
Parking for residents of the tower would appear to be located underground, with Brook admitting underground is feasible but very expensive
The meeting provided a chance to get a brief update on Pier 8 construction by the city’s waterfront boss Chris Phillips.
Phillips said the way behind schedule Promenade Park is inching forward. “Construction fencing is up,” and he firmly predicted a July 2021 opening.
The actual real estate deal to sell the city owned Pier 8 lands to the development consortium Waterfront Shores is still not signed. In fact Phillips said, it was never intended to be sold in one piece, but “block by block”
City staff will unveil the detailed design guidelines in January, but ultimately council has the ability to vote yay or nay to building a tower on the waterfront.