Major, 26 storey, development proposed for opposite city hall.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

January 25th, 2017



The proverbial just hit the fan.

It is going to be messy and it is going to create a real stink.


Ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward.

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward broke this story in her ward newsletter.

The city has just received an application from Carriage Gate Homes to amend the Official Plan and Zoning By-law to permit a 26 storey mixed-use building at Brant and James streets across from City Hall.

Seven properties at Brant and James, right across from city hall, have been assembled; the developer wants to build a mixed use building with retail on the ground floor, office on the second floor and residential above. Features include: 183 residential units, 1,327 square metres of office space, 966 square metres of commercial retail space, 4 levels of underground parking.

The proposed height is 26 storeys, with a three floor podium consisting of 1st floor retail, 2nd floor office, 3rd floor condo. The sidewalks will be widened all around the building, with a public art opportunity at the corner.

Brant Street rendering

This is what Brant Street, opposite city hall, would look like if and when the development gets built.

This development will settle the argument over just what downtown Burlington is going to look like.

The city is in the process of writing a new Official Plan – there will be considerable pressure to make very significant changes to that document. The current zoning for Brant Street is 4 storeys, with allowance to go back to 8 storeys with provision of negotiated “community benefits.”

There isn’t a developer in the city paying any attention to those requirement.

Burlington is headed for sky high development.

Site location

The building to the immediate left, on the other side of James Street, was a high end furniture store. It was recently sold. On the other side of John Street, the lower left hand corner is an empty parking lot the city has been waiting for someone to develop.

Meed Ward will fight this. She is working with city planning staff to set a date for a neighbourhood meeting. We have currently set aside Wed. March 8, 7pm, at the Art Gallery of Burlington.

In her Newsletter Meed Ward gives us her take on this one.

“First the good news: Retail at grade is good, as is office space (much needed downtown) and underground parking. Some condos above make good use of space and bring more residents downtown. Wider sidewalks to allow patios, street furniture, art and trees – all good.

South elevation

26 storeys – across the street from city hall. This is the southern elevation.

“But the proposal is too tall and will overwhelm City Hall and the area. It represents over intensification.

“The proposed development is the same height as the Martha/Lakeshore development the city is fighting at the Ontario Municipal Board? That one gets argued before the OMB late in February.”

Meed Ward doesn’t want a forest of high-rises in the downtown core.

This application is, maintains Meed Ward, the inevitable fruit of the city’s tall building guidelines, endorsed in draft by city council last fall, which Meed Ward did not support. My concern then and now is that it encourages applications to come forward that conform to the tall building guidelines but not the Official Plan and Zoning, in the wrong place on the wrong lot.

The guidelines say they are not intended to encourage tall buildings where not permitted by the OP and Zoning – but that is exactly what has happened, twice, in less than six months. The guidelines now make it harder to defend our OP and Zoning if a proposal conforms to the guidelines.

If this proposal is approved it will launch a fundamental change in our downtown. Meed Ward adds it will negatively impact the quality of life, add congestion, diminish heritage and take away from the small town feel. It would also overwhelm a public space, city hall.

It is beginning to look if that train has left the station. Far too much property has been assembled by other developers who have plans for developments that will reach 40 storeys into the sky.

Burlington lost this fight a couple of decades ago.

As for Civic Square and city hall – there are plans in a filing cabinet at city hall that set out what the city needs in the way of office space.  What they currently have – isn’t what they need.  It looks as if the city manager has some suggestions for members of Council on that subject.

The writing is on the wall – and it isn’t graffiti!

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13 comments to Major, 26 storey, development proposed for opposite city hall.

  • Monte

    Solution is simple: Create a plan, inform the citizens, stick with it and implement it!

  • gordon

    I think the silent majority (albeit complacent) of Burlingtonions really have no opinion about intensification downtown because they live outside the downtown area. And I’m sure they like the idea of creating a larger residential tax base for the municipality that can’t seem to attract any meaningful commercial/industrial participants. Don’t kid yourselves folks, highrises are coming and at warp speed and largely supported by most who don’t live downtown. And don’t forget that these people also vote. They are large in numbers but seldom if ever participate in this forum…just sayin’.

    • Tom Muir

      You have very good points that aren’t heard here very often, or anywhere for that matter.

      But if the silent ones think a larger residential tax base is going to come their way and help them, they are dreaming.

      Just look at the budget and see what these plans are actually producing for everyone, downtown or not.

      It’s just a matter of time until the intensification comes to your neighborhood. The tax bills come every year.

      But anyways, you make good points that need to be considered by those who want a say in their city’s future. I like your… just sayin’.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Time to connect the dots folks, the people who brought INTENSIFICATION to Burlington at the expense of everything else, are the same people who brought you the biggest non sovereign debt in the world, cancelled gas plants, out of control electricity costs and now cap and trade. Good bye downtown Burlington it was nice knowing you.

  • John

    The tall building guidelines have no effect or control over what a developer proposes, their purpose is to have input on building design and how they relate to the street.

    These guidelines apply to buildings over 11 storeys and as mentioned in the councilors post, this site was approved for 12 storeys several years ago. Having these guidelines apply to this proposal may have help shape several of the good features, retail at grade, office space and wider sidewalks to allow patios, street furniture, art and trees.

    We will have to wait and see what the city staff recommends on this proposal however, guidelines having input on design and street scape will result in an improved more livable space, how could that be bad, regardless of height.

    Developer’s have in the past and will in the future continue to push the envelope in terms of height, keep in mind when city hall was built in the 60’s it was the tallest building downtown, a lot has changed since then.

  • James

    Well I for one like it. I like the idea of a 26 storey mixed use building right downtown where this type of development SHOULD be happening! There are existing highrise buildings around the same height in the area, it makes perfect sense. Think about all the new people that will revitalize the downtown core, supporting the shops and restaurants. Think about the “affordable” housing opportunity. This is the downtown primary intensification node, this is EXACTLY the type of development we need in the downtown core. This isn’t 1952, it’s 2017, and times are changing. So is Burlington (along with EVERY city in the GTA).

  • Steve

    Time to vote out these clowns. Their great plan is to significantly increase the population, while at the same time, restrict the flow of traffic with loony bike lanes all in the hopes of creating such traffic jams that you will put on your spandex pants and regress to your bicycle.

  • Tom Muir

    And the Mayor says he really cares about the community, but the reality is we have this out of control assault on any community that we would ever recognize.

    It’s just a developer conspiracy to bust the city OP and replace it with what they want. Maybe they figure they can siege city hall with numerous proposals, purchased from planners who will say anything they want is “good planning”, that will have to be processed in 180 days and beyond the planners capacity to do.

    So we’ll have more OMB hangovers, capacity deficiency, cost, and weakening of resolve.

    This happening leads right to the office of the Director of Planning, who, in her spoken words and actions, is giving off a mood of rationalizing and laying the groundwork for the developers proposals.

    The planners, led by her, have certainly given the impression that they are on to these tall buildings, and to hell with the residents.

    Publicly, she is completely out of touch, really disconnected, from what the citizens who own and finance the city have clearly expressed about the developments they can buy into.

    At this stage, it’s really hard to be sympathetic with her, and some are calling for her head.

    Who is she working for? – as it’s apparently not the residents. The planners have preliminary meetings with the developers before an official proposal is submitted, so what did they say to the developers that we get such a proposal anyways?

    And the Mayor, Council and the city manager don’t appear to being doing anything about it. Are they the real problem?

    Whose city are they designing?

    She needs to get an official plan approved by citizens into play, or she should be replaced in short order before she facilitates irreversible damage to the future of the city, and our ability to control our destiny.

    The tall building guidelines are a Trojan horse that she sold to Council.

    It does not mandate anything about height, except that a “tall building”, if a city decided to build one, might pertain to 15 stories. This is not a recommendation by any means, but an example height for when the guidelines would kick in.

    The guidelines are really about spacing metrics, like separation on the ground, and between towers, sidewalks, roads, adjacent buildings, the towers, and overall design factors.

    They don’t say the sky’s the limit, so go for it. And what’s being proposed all around is just that, and doesn’t fit where they are proposed to be. And completely out of Burlington’s community character.

    And one story of office is minimal and token and will not really fix any shortage that Burlington has.

    Ground floor retail is what we already have and is required in the OP and zoning in downtown. Again, nothing of added benefit to the city.

    So what does that leave but the 183 condos wanted, which is the real deal – $ 100 million plus and I don’t really know what these will go for, but will likely be a higher gross. Except they won’t be any affordable housing.

    This power-mad greed is very distressing. I could likely live with 15 stories suitably located, but not right on Brant St.

    Brant street character is the 4 to 8 already mandated.

    Where is our planning department transparency with what they are thinking about a new OP, and what is the delay?

    It looks like it is headed to the OMB, where they can then say they didn’t do it. The OP will be made there by default.

  • Marshall

    Strong civic involvement in Burlington is a frustrating experience with this Council. Voter apathy at election time resulting in incumbents being continually re-elected allows councillors to be out of touch with neighbourhood groups. I suggest that this enables them to appear to follow their own rather than their constituents’ agendas. Perhaps a maximum term limit for councillors would address some of these problems.

  • D.Duck

    “There isn’t a developer in the city paying any attention to those requirement”

    And the reason why this is happening is due to the City Council not holding the the developers accountable years ago when this all started.

    If you give them an ‘inch’ then expect a ‘foot’. The is the essence of these businessmen and that ‘foot’ just got squarely planted in Burlington’s keester.

    Now let’s look at the lack of a descent tree bylaw before the bulldozing happens.

  • The Spice is Right

    “…and they clearly lack leadership. Sadly, the problem starts at the top.”

    Hold your cards everyone, BINGO has been called!

  • Stephen White

    OMG! Again! This issue of intensification is spiralling out of control. It’s clear that neither the politicians nor the public servants can get a grip on this problem.

    Can someone please explain to me why Oakville doesn’t seem to have the same challenges, frustrations and fractious debates around development, transportation and infrastructure that Burlington does? Or, more to the point, is it just that their politicians and civic administration are more attuned to citizens’ needs and have better planning and zoning processes?

    Case in point: I drive through Oakville daily. It takes me less time to drive from my house in southeast Burlington to Winston Churchill and Upper Middle than it does to drive to Mapleview Mall. Traffic lights are synchronized. Traffic flows at a steady pace. I suppose there are bike lanes but they aren’t obtrusive. Oakville buses are filled throughout the day.

    Downtown Oakville has new developments, but those developments blend in beautifully to the surrounding neighbourhood and the architecture is graceful. I don’t see any ghastly 26 storey highrises. The character of neighbourhoods is maintained.

    I’ve heard Rob Burton speak several times. I don’t hear him prattling on about bike lanes and hubs and intensification. He just focuses on being responsive to the needs of the electorate and responding accordingly. The one thing Oakville does have, which I don’t really see in Burlington, are strong ratepayers’ associations. Perhaps if we had strong civic involvement at the grassroots level we’d have a better Council.

    What is becoming woefully evident in the case of urban development, the bike lane issue, transportation gridlock, the budget, etc., is that this Council really, really can’t get a grip on any of these issues. Collectively, they lack cohesion, they lack vision, they lack responsiveness, and they clearly lack leadership. Sadly, the problem starts at the top.

    • Yvonne

      Great comments especially traffic flow and you are right in saying it takes less time to drive to Oakville and Mississauga along Dundas St than to travel from Dundas to New street Hence the reason i avoid travelling south of the QeW as 25 minutes to travel from top of Guelph line to New Street today at 4 45pm hitting every red light for no reason Building up downtown has no merit

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