Civic Square: How consultants will role out the redesign Part 2

By Pepper Parr

July 2nd, 2023


Part 2 of a 3 part article.

This is a long story so I have broken it up into three parts.

City Hal released a plan last week to redesign Civic Square.  The three parts are:

What was done before the plans that are now before the public?
What did the Staff report have to say in their report to Council ?.
And how did council react ?

Alan Magi, Executive Director, Environment, Infrastructure and Community Service introduced Becky Ellis, Senior Landscape Architect and the author of the report.  Magi  started the presentation saying “with this project we will be tying into the synergies with the almost completed renovations at the first floor of city hall and tying in that part of the building into Civic Square. This report will be outlining the process moving forward. And with that, I am going to be turning over to Becky introduce our consultants.”

Lewis: “You will learn from the engagement portion of the presentation that there will be plenty of opportunity over the next eight to 10 months to contribute your vision to the design of the site.

“Prior to committee staff had the opportunity to meet with Councillor Kearns, who couldn’t join us today and to answer her questions about the report. Jennifer Johnson from facilities and buildings is co-lead on this project. Ryan Stoneman is the other co- lead sends his regrets.

John Joyce from the MBT W group, is the project manager for the consulting team and Sheila Boudreau from Spruce Lab, the community engagement lead.

The Queen’s Head sits in the middle of the Civic Square. No mention that it exists in the presentation. The outline leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

John Joyce explains the project limits. “The streetscape improvements include Brant street from the south side of Ontario Street to the south side of Elgin Street, and the east side of the intersection of Brant – Elgin to the intersection of Elgin and Locust.

“There is no roadwork in the scope for this project, except to accommodate servicing requirements designed for the east side of Brant Street will be included, but construction will not proceed as part of this project, due to the planned construction of the tower south of James Street.”

What the public can expect, it appears,  is work on both sides of Brant Street at the same time.

Joyce, the consulting team project manager and the city’s primary contact continued with the presentation.

He had two slides the first of which is associated with the project goals and objectives.

“The ultimate success of the project is largely going to be measured on its ability to bring people together in an environment that’s welcoming to all abilities and backgrounds, and better supports not just the community but also local downtown businesses.

“This idea is summarized in the overall project goal which was established by the city for this project.

“There are eight key priorities: civic pride, speaks to the idea of bringing civic into the design by increasing communication through engagement.

“Civic Square and Brant Street are used for a wide variety of programming, special events, ceremonies.

Civic Square if often the gathering place but mostly for people south of the QEW. There was an impressive Black Lives Matter event and, shown below, a gathering of citizens to watch the Raptors win a basketball title

“The rebuild is being designed for maintenance and operations standpoint: You don’t build the space and then sort of scratch your head on how it’s going to be maintained, how it’s going to operate, how it’s going to be monitored.”

The project schedule: Anticipated timeline is about three years that starts in July 2023 and ends in June 2026 – four months later the public gets to elect a new city council

The work is grouped into stages.

(1) design development, begins in August of 2023. And will conclude in June 2020.

This stage includes an extensive engagement process. It includes conceptual design that will include three design options for the project that will be informed through the engagement process. The preparation will include a preferred concept plan.

During the design development stage, an update to council on the conceptual design stage.

Joyce makes mention of the “extensive engagement process associated with this project” throughout his comments.  One gets the sense that they are working hard to ensure that the city doesn’t repeat the communications problems with the Bateman project.

He then passes the presentation over to Sheila Boudreau, a principal landscape architect and planner at Spruce lab, Inc. a Toronto based firm with expertise in integrated project delivery, community engagement, indigenous engagement and design, urban design, green infrastructure and public art with a total of 20 years experience.

The intention is to have the consultations with the public “inform” what happens as the concept moves forward. At this point there isn’t a construction plan – there is a plan to figure out what the public wants. That approach didn’t work out very well wen the public was asked what they wanted at the Waterfront Hotel site.

“The public engagement plan that we’ve created for the Burlington Civic Square and Brant Street renewal is intended to support and contribute to the design of the Square, City Hall entrance and the adjacent streetscapes. Various engagement activities will be undertaken over the period of approximately 10 months between August 2023 and May 2024. This will involve meetings interactions with numerous stakeholders, accessibility groups, local businesses, and the broader community.

“Indigenous engagement will also be undertaken as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action.

“This will be conducted in culturally appropriate ways, meeting first with the Indigenous Talking Circle, and broadening the circle to other indigenous peoples that are living in the city of Burlington.

“In addition, consultation with the First Nations treaty rights holders – the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and other first nations according to their interest and level ability to collaborate at that time.

“Consultation with the First Nations is a requirement of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure program funding that supports this project.

“All engagement activities will be informed throughout by the International Association of Public Participation, public participation spectrum.

The International Association for Public Participation’s Spectrum of Public Participation describes five general modes of public participation in democratic decision-making on continuum of increasing community influence.

“The public engagement plan will be refined based on the level of interest and availability of those being engaged in order to respond effectively to their needs. And each phase of the engagement process will circle back, as shown in the graphic, to inform the development of the design until the design is finalized.

Boudreau completed her part of the presentation; Senior Landscape Architect Becky Lewis asked if there were any comments or questions.

Kwab Ako-Adjei is the Director of Communications and Engagement.

Jacqueline Johnson – Executive Director, Community Relations and Engagement.

Councillor Nisan was the first out of the gate.

Unfortunately, ward 2 Councillor Kearns did not attend the meeting, however she was given an opportunity to share her views in a private briefing.

Her constituents never got to hear what she had to say about the development that is in her ward. .

Kearns had sent he regrets to Council – she didn’t attend any of the Standing Committee meetings this past week. No word, that we can publish, on just where she is or what she is doing.

What members of Council had to say is covered in part 3

What is a little confusing is the city has two senior people on the communications and engagement file yet there is an outside firm with seasoned communications and engagement staff  serving as the community engagement lead. Sheila Boudreau from Spruce Lab has been assigned that responsibility.


Part 1:

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2 comments to Civic Square: How consultants will role out the redesign Part 2

  • Blair Smith

    What I don’t understand about this project is legion and is most certainly my failing. However, ‘to put my observations out on the table and remove all doubt about my ignorance’ these are my immediate concerns. First, why are we doing this – and indeed any of the renovations of the existing City Hall – when it will not be suitable for the future needs of the City and will be literally over-shadowed by the building developments across the street. This seems money ill-spent. Secondly, although I applaud the Mayor’s commitment to indigenous culture, and I understand the stipulations attached to the Federal grant, isn’t this a rather poor site to celebrate the commitment? Indeed, with the two developments across the street casting the dark shadow of ugly overreach and downtown exploitation (yes, my biased view), Civic Square may be a rather sad metaphor of the history of the original inhabitants of Ontario and lands further south. Finally, why is the communications and engagement program around this left in the hands of the consultants? I believe that we have a large, well-staffed and well-funded division within the City of Burlington organization headed by a newly hired Executive Director. They should be undertaking that “program”. If they’re not capable of doing it, then what are they capable of doing?

  • Hope their Accessibility engagement is not the Accessibility Committee who dropped the ball on this since 2018 leaving Civic Square as a danger zone for all in terms of falls. No-one at city hall and definitely not Lisa would talk about the issues. No matter what we did or said. Disgraceful attitude that we cannot see improving until we get some real leadership at City Hall.