City council to debate just how high the first high rise on Brant Street will be on November 1st - this will be the begining of a new era for the city.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

October 19th, 2017



The serious discussion about just what is going to get built along Brant Street will begin on November 1st when a city council standing committee debates the Planning staff recommendation for the 421 Brant Street application for Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendment to permit a 27- storey mixed use building with retail, office and residential units (including 1-storey rooftop amenity area) in a structure that will be right across the street from city hall.

421 Brant

Planners will put their modified recommendation before city council debate on November 1st.

The proposal is for 179 residential units; 870 square metres of office space; and 1,019 square metres of ground floor retail / commercial uses fronting onto Brant Street and James Street. There is to be four levels of underground parking, with 183 parking spaces, accessed from John Street.

Planning department staff will be recommending modified approval of the amendments to the City’s Planning and Development Committee of Council on November 1, 2017 in the evening.

When the Carriage gate Group first took this proposal to the public they brought in number of consultants who set out what was about to happen to Burlington in terms of the way development was going to roll out.

The need to intensify the way land was used was now at the top of the agenda. The province requires the city to grow its population.

Where are those thousands of people going to live? Burlington doesn’t have a lot of land that the traditional bungalow can be built on – and it didn’t appear to have all that much interest in the number of monster houses that were being built on small properties.

If you can’t go out – then you go up – which means high rise buildings.

There are those who define high rise as eight to maybe 12 storeys. The cost of land doesn’t make a 12 storey building economically feasible.

The question then is – how high will the new buildings be and where will they be located?

Robert Glover, one of the smarter urban designers in the province, explained to the audience when the development was first taken to the public that Brant Street should be seen as the spine of the city.

Robert Glover

Robert Glover

Glover put a large graphic on the screen that showed just where the high rises in the downtown core were located – there were few that were actually on Brant Street – and Glover, who has worked as a planner for both the public and the private sector, was suggesting that some thinking needed to be done about where high rise buildings should be located.

Glover is well aware that Burlington is not Toronto and he thinks that Burlington has a charm of its own that can and should be developed. Cities need a structure – a backbone that keeps the city together.

“The backbone gives a body structure, strength – something that other parts of the city can be linked to, said Glover.

He added: “A spine gives a city a focus – a center and if done properly development can be staged so that the street that serves as the spine does not become a canyon.”

Downtown Mobility Hub Existing Conditions Map

Robert Glover argues that Brant Street should be seen as the city’s spine. The bulk of the tall buildings are t the east and west of Brant. There are applications for at least half a dozen buildings that will reach well above the 20 storey height that seems to be what the planners favour.

His view is that a 27 storey structure will not hurt or harm the city hall – a high rise, if done properly will enhance the city hall – “place buildings around it that feature city hall and the Civic Square”.

Glover realizes that making that happen is what the delicate art of planning is all about – it needs to be thoroughly thought through – “they just don’t plop a building into a space because a developer has assembled a number of properties”.

Members of council are making decisions now that will impact the city for the next two to three decades – there is just the one chance to get it right.

What does work on Brant street now? Not much actually. The Burlington Downtown Business Association continually talk about the “vibrancy” of the street – they seem to feel that if you continually call an area “vibrant” it will become vibrant. It doesn’t work that way.

City hall - older pic

City hall can’t hold all the staff on the payroll – several departments are in the Simms building across the street.

City Hall itself is no longer an efficient building and doesn’t meet the city’s space requirements – a significant amount of space is rented in the Sims building across the street from city hall.

The city’s Tall Building Design Guidelines put in place in January after a rather rushed process with very little in the way of public input.

The Bridgewater development, on Lakeshore at the bottom of Martha, is rising several feet each day. The Berkeley on John Street is doing the same thing. That kind of development attracts other developments and before you know it you have a city with a significantly different look and feel. Change of that kind isn’t something the public takes to easily.

If Glover is right, and his success with previous projects suggest he knows what he is talking about, there is an opportunity to bring some real vibrancy to Brant street.

Concept 2 - looking north from LakeshoreInterestingly – the Planning department hasn’t had all that much to say on what they think Brant could become.

Their response to the 421 Brant Street development will give the public a first look at what the planners think should be permitted in terms of height.

That is the question city council has to ask: How high and where?

We are about to find out.

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4 comments to City council to debate just how high the first high rise on Brant Street will be on November 1st – this will be the begining of a new era for the city.

  • Jeremy Skinner

    Report Number: PB-62-17
    Subject Report recommending modified approval of an Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendment for 421 – 431 Brant Street
    Can be found at—brant-st/pb-62-17-recommendation-report—421-431-brant-street.pdf

  • Ken

    Dear Stephen;

    Excellent as usual. However I’d like to make a few comments and then propose some answers to your questions.

    I would speculate that City Planning will approve 20 to 22 stories for 421 Brant. The good news is the low number of units in this development will only moderately increase the traffic congestion but and I am surprised no one has said it yet; this building will stand out like a sore thumb.

    As for Mobility Hubs, the downtown Urban Growth Centre is nothing more then gas on the fire. We are 80% (157 people or jobs per Hectare) of the way to the Provincially mandated density target for downtown. This is 11 years in advance of the 2031 deadline. Current construction has Burlington exceeding the Provincial target of 200 people or jobs per Hectare and Council is enthusiastically endorsing 300 people or jobs in the downtown core. (COW Sept. 28th)

    Q1) Answer: Developers always over build and right now the going is good.
    Q2) Answer: Planning desires intensification no matter what.
    Q3) Answer: Because Mary Lou Tanner is a City Planning Jihadist.

  • Pauline

    Not sure where to start with comments on this but here goes.

    The Growth Plan has been around since 2006. This is bigger than one lady in “the Pink Palace”. There has always been an understanding that that each municipality should accommodate its fair share of growth. I find it astonishing that people continue to refuse to face this reality. Burlington is going to grow. Ratcheting up the rhetoric does not help the situation and does nothing but lead politicians to suggest that they support down zoning. And where do they want this down zoning? In the core of the City! The downtown. The “Urban Growth Centre”!

    As Councillor Sharman noted at the recent mobility hub workshop, the City’s consultant has confirmed that the equivalent of 8,200,000 square feet of new space is to be accommodated in the downtown. The office and retail component alone is 470,000 sq. ft. This is the equivalent of 4 big box retail stores. While this suggestion is laughable, it clearly shows that the downtown will be growing.

    Last time I checked Steve, you and the City have no control over rent levels. However, these spaces would not be built if there was not a strategy for their occupancy. Unfortunately, some things can take longer than we all might like.

    Think how the existing residents of Burlington felt when your house was built. You are perpetuating a myth.

    Where are all of these development applications you speak of? There is a lot of talk about potential developments but only one has been submitted in the Downtown. Please tell the truth. FYI, the City cannot impose a “moratorium” on applications that have been submitted. It is against the law.

    Can we please focus on strategically locating new buildings, the quality of these projects and focus on what they give us in return rather than all of the very tiresome negative Nancy stuff?

    Like it or not, Burlington is going to grow – ESPECIALLY in the downtown.

  • Stephen White

    Where are the research studies that show conclusively that a bunch of grand 20+ storey high rise buildings will lead to “vibrancy”? Looking at the main level of all the existing condos downtown and I don’t see a lot of extraordinary shopping experiences…unless one’s definition of “vibrancy” includes Linda Davies Real Estate office and an RBC branch. Tell us what the rental cost will be per square foot, and let’s see if that is within the realm of reasonableness for a small retailer. I suspect not.

    Re: a new City Hall. Truly, who cares if City Hall staff have to work out of more than one complex? So what? Lots of businesses have multi-site locations. When I worked for Scotiabank we had staff at 40 King Street West, and 44 King Street West, and Union Station, and 100 Yonge, and 2201 Eglinton Avenue East, and dozens of other locations in acrossToronto. Memo to Council: they have these marvelous new technologies now called “e-mail”, and let’s not forget the old standby called “the telephone’. You don’t have to have everybody sitting under one roof to work efficiently.

    And while we’re at it, why are we spending so much time worrying about Granny Wynne’s intensification agenda? This government has one foot in the grave. Her sorry government is on a death watch. Glen Murray, Brad Duguid, Deb Matthews, Liz Sandals….the list of rats abandoning the sinking ship grows daily. Even if, by some extraordinary stroke of luck or voter stupidity Kate manages to pull out a minority government with NDP support, the New Democrats will be more interested in affordable housing, not worrying about how many high income earners we can shoehorn into multi-storey concrete jungles downtown.

    Finally, the questions Burlington taxpayers need to ask our Council all start with the word “why”: 1) Why are we being deluged with all these development proposals now? 2) Why are these proposals being considered before the Mobility Hub design concept is fully evaluated, debated and approved? 3) Why doesn’t City Hall call a moratorium on Zoning By-Law Amendments until after the Mobility Hub has been debated and approved?