Changing the look of Civic Square

By Pepper Parr

June 6th, 2024



There were two event at City Hall last night.  One was about the building, City Hall, and the other about caring for the people in the city.  Except for one exception, Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns, who was the host of the Community event, there wasn’t a politician to be seen or heard.

This is really two separate stories that took place in the same space – so let’s do them separately.

There was an opportunity to talk to the people who did much of the early design work of Civic Square.  They were not staff members – they are staff from Spruce Lab, a planning, landscape architecture and urban design consultancy that is Indigenous and women-owned.

Their services include landscape design and green infrastructure, urban design, urban and rural planning, engagement (Indigenous, community and stakeholder engagement), integrated project delivery (IPD), public art collaboration, and related education / training.

Gary Scobie talking to a staff member about the designs for Civic Square that were on display last night.

One of the designs suggests the Clock could be moved to Elgin Street

We will be doing more on how Spruce Lab worked with the Indigenous community and the impact that has had on the design work they are doing.

The development is at the reviewing what has been proposed so far.

There were some people, not really all that many – certainly not more than 50 taking part.  Those who did take part got a solid briefing.

There are now three designs for public consideration: 1) the Canopy design; 2) the Portal design, 3) the Atrium design.

The canopy design would have the entrance to City Hall basically where it is off Brant Street with a canopy wrapped around part of the street level.

The Portal and the Atrium design would be from the Civic Square we have no one version would have an atrium built into the entrance, the other would not have the Atrium.

Citizens looking over the proposed designs while the consultant takes notes.

One of the Spruce Lab consultants taking several people through each of the three proposed designs.

Nothing has been determined.  City Hall wants feedback.  They have done a survey and made an interactive computer application that lets people move parts of one design to another.

One of the proposed designs would orient the entrance to city hall to the right hand side of the line shown.

For example one design moves the Clock to Elgin Street close to the entrance to City Hall.  My personal view is that the Clock gets lost on Elgin.

A Spruce Lab consultant pointing to where the entrance to city hall would be located

One man suggested that wherever the entrance is located that it include an entrance for people who have accessibility issues and a different entrance for everyone else; they would be side by side.

How much of this will be reflected in the final design, hard to tell – but it was clear that a lot f notes were being taken.

There is nothing final about anything at this point.  The city and the consultants want to hear what people think about what has been suggested.  The turn out Wednesday evening was not impressive.

It is difficult for consultants to respond to what a community wants when so very few people show up.

While the Civic Square designs were being explained on one side of the main floor at city hall another group on the other side had four times as many people taking part in a Community Cares event.



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10 comments to Changing the look of Civic Square

  • Caren … couldn;t agree with you more. Our taxes are out of control and the city is wasting money on this? !

  • Blair Smith

    The AODA requirements need to be addressed. So, this is the default option – all the rest is superfluous. The accessibility and safety requirements were identified in 2019 but the project was “underwhelming” to the newly elected and soon to be prolifigate Council. Now that increases to taxpayers do not seem to be a serious concern for Council, the project is worth doing. And please don’t give me, once again, the “pandemic spin” – the project was found to be ‘wanting’ in Council interest before COVID hit.

    Just an aside, I am really tired of COB surveys that do not contain a ‘do nothing’ option and the impacts of the status quo. This is always the first option and the basis for necessary action – or not. Why do we always get surveys that present various ‘do something’ options and are generally heavily skewed to the option that staff/Council prefer?

    • Gary Scobie

      You’re right Blair. Just doing the necessary upgrades to meet AODA requirements should be one of the choices. Info I got from attending the City Hall session last night was that the 2018 upgrade approved by the past Council was around $800K then, all funded by Burlington taxpayers. It should have been done in 2019, but wasn’t.

      I asked what the cost for these new concepts were. Around $3.5M for the Civic Square changes, funded by the Federal, Provincial and Burlington taxpayers in about even proportions. Adding what is called the Burlington Facade at the entrance way would add about $3M more, all funded entirely by Burlington taxpayers. So this project does do more than the original approved one in 2018, but it is also way more costly and of course Burlington taxpayers are also Federal and Provincial taxpayers so we still pay a very large share of the costs for “nice to haves” versus “need to haves”.

      I do like the concepts, but I’m not sure we can or should afford this big ticket item. There is no free money here, so I would support the “need to have” concept only, but it isn’t on the survey.

      • Anne and Dave Marsden

        Should have …… but wasn’t. Applies to so much of this Council’s decision making outside of the legislation they know they must comply with but don’t. Neither do they hold themselves accountable as they have all committed to do. And neither does the Integrity Commissioner or our City Lawyer. Everything is hunky dorey according to them. 2014 Procecural Bylaw required the City lawyer be sure every de ision was compliant with legislation. A committe of three headed by MMW that kept no minutes of proposed changes removed that portion of the bylaw, not understanding that it is the Head of Legal’s duty to ensure decisions line up with legislation.

        A complaint is being prepared for our Ombudsman deals with such issues. But don’t hold your breathe anything will change with s Strong Mayor holding the sceptre of power in Burlington with the singular power to veto council decisions and hire and fire City Manager. However did we get to this point in Municipal history.

    • Anne and Dave Marsden

      Thank you Blair Smith for recognizing we are and have been non compliant with access standards since 2016. We dealt with this when the Accessibility Report was before Council and then again on April 16th. Do our Council, Head of Legal and Access Officer care that they have been knowingly operating outside the AODA with The City Flagship since 2016. Absolutely not. Will our new CAO make a difference to the nose thumbing at the legal right for the mobility disability ocommunity to have access and a safe footing. If he will we should very soon hear about the cancellation of these pie in the sky plans of an underwhelmed Council and common sense decisions begin to be made.

      How legal has let this go for this long is beyond us. They are just begging for a Human Rights case. Any human Rights judge who hears of the extent this Council has gone to make everyone feel welcome with their ridiculous not road worthy rainbow cross walks but fail to address legislated requirements of the AODA will have a field day and the taxpayer will fork out yet again.

      Let’s get as many comments on this addressing our new CAO as possible. Heads need to roll and we need the 2018 COUNCIL APPROVED BUDGET AND 2019 VERY ADEQUATE plan back before Council with a 2024 completion date. Yes it will cost more as Angelo stated it would when he was the lone voice in 2019 who voted against “the will of an underwhelmed Council”. Transcript shows TC used the words “will of council” to describe this illegal cancellation of a democratjcally elected council budget decision.. Let’s hear it as it should be “will and best interests of the people” nothing less.

      Come on Burlingtonians who care put in a comment. BACK TO 2019 PLAN FOR CIVIC SQUARE WITH COMPLETION 2024. We can get Council common sense back to Council but not without enough voices to support us.

      Editor’s note: This my friends is a done deal. The funds are in place and there isn’t a municipality in the province that will return funds to either the province or the federal government.
      The 2019 version wasn’t going to win any awards; mediocre at beast.

      AODA compliance is vital – your focus, your energy and your advocacy could and should be ensuring AODA is met.

      Why is it that time is spent that battles that have already been lost?

      • Anne and Dave Marsden

        Editor: Mediocre perhaps in your mind but not in those whose input saw a very workable, innovative design and legislation being met to meet significant safety and Access needs. We have lost count of our delegations that deal with COB nose thumbs at our accessibility laws since the pier was opened. We have met with Accessibility Minister’s and Former LG David Onley and made presentations at provincial AODA committees.

        Did it make a difference No. Will 20 or 30 Comments addressed to our CAO to give him the opportunity to show he listens and cares we don’t know, but it is worth a try. Whether they liked it or not the Toronto Pride Group had to pay back the gov. and it looks like Oakville might have to do the same.

  • Anne and Dave Marsden

    “It is difficult for consultants to respond to what a community wants when so very few people show up.”

    It is difficult for taxpayers to understand why we have been without a safe and accessible Civic Square when the 2018 admin staff and council listened to what was wanted and needed and acted as they should with an agreed budgetted new Civic Square to be completed summer 2019.

    A democratically elected council’s decision is carved in stone unless a reconsideration motion is put forward by a member of council who voted yes for the decision.

    This has not happened, therefore, there is no legislative authority for what is taking place that has clearly not been in the best interests of Burlington taxpayers since the 2018 council set aside a past council’s decision and the best interests of the residents. An action that was based solely on Council will relative to their feelings of being underwhelmed.

    Surely our new CAO and Head of Legal should understand this and put an end to this nonsense and get the job done that was planned and budgetted for with lots of citizen input.

    We cannot understand why thus far only very few of us that includes Gary Scobie understand there is no legislative authority for what is occurring including the extra millions of dollar cost.

    We should be seeing placards held by taxpayers throughout the city that say “Give us the Civic Square we needed, wanted and met all the Legislative requirements July, 2019. ” when will this Council stop the misinformation and begin to act in accordance with legislation put place to protect those who honored them with their vote.

  • Caren

    This project is a huge waste of Tax Payer dollars. It doesn’t matter which Tax Payer pot the funds come from as it all comes from the same Tax Payer!! Us.
    Clean up the pavers and leave the Civic Square as is, along with the fountain and the clock.

    Also, we do not need 6 Flag poles at City Hall. So much time is wasted on flag raising and lowering by Council (including Photo ops) and staff time booking and scheduling who’s included this week or next etc.
    All we need are 2 Flag Poles, one for a Canadian Flag, and a second one for either a Municipal Flag or Ontario Flag. Making it inclusive for all Residents!

  • Penny

    “Past History is a good indicator of future behaviour”.

    Perhaps the low turnout is a result of the many times surveys are sent out and residents consulted only to have the City do what it intended to do in the first place.

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