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Have your say on Waterfront Hotel redevelopment

More than 30 residents attended each of two design workshops in early July to explore four concepts for how the Waterfront Hotel site might be redeveloped, ranging from limiting the site to existing planning provisions (8-14 storeys), up to 40 storeys.

The exercise, said the consultants, was to work through the pros and cons of various proposals then glean the best of each discussion to incorporate into a final plan for the Waterfront Hotel site. The concepts were not intended as preferred options.


Some variables considered in the process: two buildings with a centre piazza; one building closer to the East of the site, with greenspace on the west; a U-shaped cluster of buildings on the East side of the site, ranging in height from 6-15 storeys, collectively adding to 40 storeys, but no single building that high; driveway access off of Brant versus only off of Elizabeth Street; underground parking under the entire site.

There are no applications for redevelopment of the site. Before any application can come forward, our Official Plan requires an extensive study, including public consultation to create a community vision for the area that would then be built into the Official Plan. Any future application would have to conform to that vision. That study is now underway. The study area includes several blocks around the hotel site, to ensure the park, waterfront and Lakeshore Road context are considered in planning.

The design workshops were preceeded by two public open houses, attended by more than 100 people.

I’ve attended all meetings and circulated to various tables during the sessions. There is significant debate over appropriate height, mass and location of buildings, but some common themes have emerged:

  • residents want more greenspace to add to Spencer Smith Park. This can be accomplished in several ways: the city has a right to take a percent of parkland for each unit built; that parkland could be on the West side and/or South side of any building to blend into the park; lot coverage could be limited to 50% of the site, and buildings situated on the East side, adding greenspace on the West to the park.
  • residents want public amenities with redevelopment: ideas include restaurants and cafes facing the park and water, retail along Lakeshore, a farmers market, public roof top observatory, public washrooms, or a convention centre.
  • residents want a unique design, not another generic glass tower.

There was some discussion that the Waterfront Hotel buildings should be shorter than the Bridgewater to the East, with three buildings at 7, 8 and 22 storeys, The Bridgewater is already the designated “landmark” building for the downtown in the city’s Official Plan.

There was also discussion of whether the city could buy the property and turn it all into parkland. The property owner was at a session and publicly stated to our table he would sell for $250 million.

To read resident input from previous meetings click: What we heard May 2017

To learn more about the study visit: Waterfront Hotel Planning Study

You can share your input directly with the planner on the file:

My Take:

I’m open to purchasing the property to expand the park, should terms benefit residents which the owner’s current proposal does not. Should acquisition not be possible, the community must shape the vision for any redevelopment. We can get more parkland during redevelopment, as well as public amenities, with a variety of tools, including reduced lot coverage, parkland dedication and moving buildings to the east.

This is a key area in our downtown and waterfront, and whatever happens here, we need to get it right for the future. Residents need to be in the driver’s seat, not reacting to someone else’s development proposal. That’s why it’s so important to embed a community vision for this area in our Official Plan and Zoning.

There is no consensus, yet, among residents about the best vision for this area. I urge everyone to get involved in this discussion,  critically evaluate and provide your input on the potential options here.

Written by Marianne Meed Ward

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.


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  1. My concern, as someone with a disability, is where we can expect to find ‘affordable’ housing downtown. I’ve been a resident of Burlington for 37 years and am slowly being priced out of my hometown. The downtown area offers such immense opportunities for people with disabilities (I myself need to make us of a wheelchair as a result of a spinal cord injury seven years ago), but little in the way of truly affordable housing. The proposed high rises, throughout the downtown core are all ‘luxury priced’ – capitalism at its best which, I suppose I can’t argue with, but simply hope that city planning may take into account the need for more affordable housing in our downtown core, so that all of our city’s citizens have an opportunity to live in and enjoy our beautiful downtown.

  2. I agree that Spencer Smith Park and the neighbouring lands are very valuable to the city.
    Let’s not make the same mistake others cities have made…keep the existing open space….

    Hopefully, the ADI Development and other new projects will respect this precident. We can’t undo the planning mistakes made and the impact they will have on traffic through the downtown…. lets not make more problems.

  3. Not sure of all the acronyms but I think I agree with the gist of what you’re getting at – like I said earlier – council will cave and collect

  4. Fact is, people, Burlington has drunk the ICLEI koolaid, by joining this dubious UN “Agenda 21”-based (now being called “2030 Agenda”) organization this past year: http://www.icleicanada.org/members/list-members. Soon they may be BARCing up ICLEI’s tree. What this has done is to take the power and democracy away from the citizens. Fact is, Burlington is screwed! This UN-styled Regionalism is taking over all across Canada, while municipalities are losing their voice… Good luck.

    • BARC: http://www.icleicanada.org/programs/adaptation/barc (neighbouring Hamilton is already a member of that…)

  5. With Bridgewater under way, it seems ludicrous to place height restrictions on a new development next door, and forgo the staggering tax revenues that it would provide. However, let’s learn from the Australians – they happily embrace high rises, but the buildings ALWAYS have substantive public space between them and the water – whether for parkland, shops, cafes or other general uses. For anyone not familiar, have a Google Earth look at Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or nearly any other city or town in the country.

    • Understood, Rob.
      Once the Bridgewater is built out, the City will be in a much better position to judge whether allowing even it was a planning mistake or not. Why repeat, until we actually know?
      Also,can you name a few comparable Australian cities to Burlington, because Sydney, Brisbane & Melbourne with populations of 56x, 25x and 12x our population, respectively, are not.

      • Thanks Dan – I was going to respond with the same “apples & oranges” analogy – I live downtown, as does MMW, Unfortunately, I think that high-rise development in the downtown core is inevitable as council tends to cave on issues as mundane as allowing a Tim Horton’s @ Brant & Victoria (not zoned at the time) in the former Blockbuster Video but made it “OK” by not allowing a drive-thru – whatever. Let’s look to the East end where allegedly, the new waterfront mecca is currently under construction albeit with no parking or public transportation, etc.

  6. Benefit residence? Then DON’T allow such horrific refining and building to happen to our waterfront.

  7. When I saw that the workshops were occurring, I asked my friends and neighbours what they thought should go there. There was no consensus. Some thought it would be nice to extend SS Park and others thought restaurants would be nice, along with another hotel. One suggestion was a market of sorts – it could be in a permanent building with washrooms and would allow local vendors to sell their wares. It would be unique as they could be rotated and would draw people in as they would never know what would be there.

    We all agreed any buildings should be low. No one wanted to drive down Brant to see a high rise. One of my favourite things about Burlington is the view of the water from various areas: whether it is from Cedar Springs Road or walking down Elizabeth St we need to keep the view.

  8. I think the city cuased the issue by okaying the monster hotel next door. Waterfront likely would not have wanted tpo expand but now likely feels the need to expand to compete. I am involved with a number of charityand not for profit events at the park and have always found the Waterfront management very generous in terms of free rooms/parking etc eventhough i am told the hotel is booked solid all summer weekends for weddings . Meaning not much gain for them for their generosity. I just say this as their new neighbour is a nameless faceless corportaion who if they maintain passed example give little to the city only to their own corporate causes. If they can see a buisoness case to rebuild at levels slightly lower than Bridgewater height wise go for it we need to attract people to our downtown that will spend the nigt and some money as we are not doing well as is keeping businesses open. I am definitely not in favour of spending any money of mine to buy the land as said before another pier/performing art centre, pump house and looks likely foolishly we will give millions to Joe Brant museunm who close up adn no one misses them. Goal for increases in tax should be cost of living not 4%

    • Craig, FYI, the Marriott Hotel is planned to be only 8 stories, not so different from the current Waterfront Hotel. It’s one of the Bridgewater Condominium towers to the east that will be 22 stories.

  9. $250M is obviously a ridiculous number. I support council buying the property to expand the park. Chances like this don’t present themselves often. Don’t mess this up. Buy it.

  10. And what are Mr. Vranichs’ plans for the Ascot Motel he recently purchased??? The previous owner was unable to develop the site….

    • Larry, You’re right, the Ascot site has significant restrictions due to setbacks from the stable top of bank set by Conservation Halton that eliminate most of the developable land. It can continue in its current use, but not much else.

    • Could this land be used as an “extension” of the eastern most Spenser Smith walkway around the Bridgewater and meet the 1 hectare/ 500 units parkland designation required by the City for the Waterfront redevelopment? The relative value of this property as opposed to that on the west side of the Waterfront property would make this an attractive horse-trade option for Mr.Vranich.

  11. Well said Marianne. Burlington residents must get actively involved and drive this process. Simply complaining is not productive. Get involved. We appreciate and will be counting on your and other public elected officials support to implement a solution for the betterment of the community and residents of Burlington.

  12. Residents want this, residents want that & yet only a pitiful few show up at the meetings to outline proposals. Oh, we can buy the property for a quarter of a billion $$$. My question is where is this 1/4 billion? I don’t see a money tree growing anywhere in Burlington! Its sounds like another “nice to have” which turns into a GOTTA HAVE & then WE HAVE DONE IT & HAVE IT. Kind of like a Pier to Nowhere & a Performing Arts Centre. Lets stop spending money we DON”t have, lets stop increasing our property taxes for the few that HAVE TO HAVE THESE “nice to have” things!
    You know, probably the majority of the people at these aforementioned meeting live in the current high rises on the north side of Lakeshore Road & of course they don’t want their view obstructed. Another question raises itself – the city supposedly has the right to take a portion of parkland for each residential unit – where & when did this come into effect & what areas does it cover; because certainly it hasn’t been applied to ANY of the high rise monstrosities north of Lakeshore Rd has it?

    • Charlie, Yes the city can take land or cash as “parkland dedication” for every new building constructed. Previously, the city has taken cash and used it to upgrade existing parks, but can also be used to buy land.

  13. Hopefully, the OMB will be dismantled prior to any application and control will be handed back to the City (so all of the community feedback might count). $250 M is rich (given the $25 M price paid by Mr.Vranich less than 10 years ago), but the City should remain open to any & all options to extend Spenser Smith Park and limit building coverage to 50% of the property on the NE corner and to a maximum of 14 stories. Contiguous land is obviously unique and cannot be replaced, and any price paid can be amortized over a generation (30 years) or two, with likely much appreciation from current & future residents. My wife & I walked along the promenade last night in the moonlight, with many others, and commented that the Burlington waterfront park is such an amazing asset, freely accessible to and enjoyed by so many in this community. I fully agree with your post, Marianne. If there was ever a file that the City of Burlington must think and act with a long-term, strategic vision on, it is this one!

What's your take?