Emma's is now part of the city's history - closed forever.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 13th, 2020



Some background on the closing of Emma’s Back Porch.

Emmas lakeside

Emma’s at its best – it was the place to be.

Craig Kowalchuk, the operator of Emma’s Back Porch didn’t own the property; he rented it from Mayrose Tyco.

That company has significant property interests in Burlington. They owned that land on which the Bridgewater development is taking place.

The property to the east of Emma’s is a vacant lot, also believed to be owned by Mayrose Tyco.

The property to the west, the motel is owned by Solid Gold people in Aldershot.

The Water Street Cooker is also owned by Mayrose.

CORE tower

This is what the CORE development group is proposing; the heritage building will continue as a restaurant; traffic will flow on to Lakeshore Road the other side of this rendering. The proposal is for a 27 storey structure.


The outline represents the properties that were acquired and assembled by the CORE group

Directly across the road from Emma’s is the location of a major development proposal; some xx storeys high.

That development had some problems – there was no space for much in the way of amenities.

My guess is that the CORE group bought the property and will make it part of the development.

Nothing is going to be built on the Emma’s site.

There is a planning term: “top of bank” that determines how far back a structure has to be set back from the top of the bank.

That top of bank limitation made the development of anything very high impossible.

That part of the city, known in planning circles as the “football”, which has Lakeshore Road on the north and Old Lakeshore road on the south is about to undergo huge changes.

From Lakeshore and Martha

The Carnacelli development at the east end of the football will become the focus to the entry to the city.

The Carnacelli development on the east end of the football is before LPAT; the CORE development is before LPAT.

The property at the west end of the football is owned by a trust, one of the leading real estate agents ii the city has his fingers in that pie.

Developers saw huge opportunities in Burlington.  The city council at the time didn’t seem prepared to fight for its authenticity; of the seven just one Councillor was prepared to fight – she became Mayor in the 2018 election.

The new Offical Plan, adopted but not approved – it has to go to the Region first- has very clear guidelines – but most of these developments were filed before the Official Plan became real.

Can changes be made?  Time will tell.

Core model-3-d-0f-the-site-768x929

An architects model of what the east downtown core along Lakeshore Road could look like.


The football – where developers have some very big plans. While no one anticipated the closing of Emma’s – it might be the cost of the developments that a lot of people don’t want. However, people are going to buy the units.

It will be interesting to see how this all rolls out.

Related news story links.

The development of the football

The background behind the CORE development.


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18 comments to Emma’s is now part of the city’s history – closed forever.

  • Alfred


    Info. I am receiving from staff is that this is all in the works. New proposed Official Plan and New Zoning By-laws are not in effect as of yet. In this case I am only the messenger and make no guarantee of validity. Contact can be made with staff to varify.

    • dave turner


      Here is what I found.


      Whilst I’m relatively knew to Burlington I do have contacts who themselves have good contacts in City Hall. This is what they tell me:-

      Though there is still scheduled public input to happen, from what I hear significant changes are not very likely, having spent god knows how much on consultant reports. I hear the region and Province are on-side with the City’s approach.

      You too seem to have your finger on the pulse. Hopefully one day post lockdown we could meet, introduce ourselves and have a chat.

  • Alfred

    Note to editor.

    I stand corrected. Do we have a Region Approved Official Plan based on Provincial Government guidelines? That has recently been enacted City wide in Burlington. With corresponding City wide by-laws also in place, approved by Burlington City council. David keeps making reference to both being in place? I’m confused. The City has up to 3 years to to create By-laws. I would be shocked if that is the case.

  • Alfred

    Correction; Downtown

  • Alfred


    I stand to be corrected, but I’m not aware of the Region or Province approving any Official Plan let alone By-laws for Burlington. Please provide a reference we can read, this would be helpful explaining some of the chaos going on Downtown. Thanks

    Editor’s note: Albert you asre wrong. Burlington’s Official Plan MUST be approved by the Region. Where have you been for the past five years.

    • dave turner


      During the ICBL the City undertook many studies. As a result of those studies the City amended the OP and passed new zoning bylaws to make bothered me compliant with the Region’s OP and the Province’s stated policies. As a result there are approximately 31 appeals against both at LPAT by developers. Having zoning bylaws and an OP compliant with the Region’s OP and with policies stated by the Provincial government along with the removal of a transportation hub designation of the John St certainly provides the City with an infinitely better chance of defending at LPAT against developer plans of over intensification in the downtown. The new/amended OP and zoning bylaws lay out for developers what type of development is desired and us acceptable on a precinct by precinct basis.

  • Alfred


    Sir I agree with you that the Emmas building lot can not be built on due to it’s proximity to the lake. It does not meet the stable top of slope requirements and has a heritage designation which could be challenged. The property could be merged with other adjacent properties. To facilitate minimum lot sizes and coverages for other possible developments. The Heritage designation can be challenged as the entire front of the building has been completely renovated including the roof. What would you tell a child looking at this building in a historical sense? When you are looking at all modern building materials. Not sure about the windows.

    • dave turner

      Alfred, good day to you.

      To meet the Ontario Heritage Act requirements for a property to be heritage designated it must meet one or more of a number of criteria.

      Those criteria include:-

      Are there physical attributes of the building or the land which are of historic importance and worthy of preservation.

      (Recently when former councilor Dennison sought to divide his designated Lakeshore property just east of Guelph Line a heritage attribute report undertaken by an independent party highlighted the existence of a aspect of the gardens that was worthy of preservation and so designation.)

      Please note a heritage designation is placed on the property not just a building on a property. In fact a piece of property without any buildings on it can be designated historical.

      For a private property to be considered for designation generally only the exterior features of the building and the features of the property (land) itself are given consideration. However, with publicly accessed buildings consideration is also given to its interior features.

      I’m not suggesting the building interior or exterior or the property itself have any such remarkable features worthy of the “Emma’s” property receiving an historic designation. I’m just saying what comes into the review process.

      Please note though, in addition to physical aspects of a property being reason for it to receive a heritage designation, there are other aspects the Ontario Heritage Act says should be considered as reason in their own right. Those criteria are:-

      • Has direct associations with a theme, event, belief, person, activity, organization or institution that is significant to a community
      • Yields or has the potential to yield information that contributes to the understanding of a community or culture
      • Is important in defining, maintaining or supporting the character of an area
      • Is a landmark

      I would suggest the “Emma’s” property meets many of these “soft” criteria.

      In addition to the historic designation on the property a developer would have to overcome the “top of slope” issue and the new Regionally and Provincially approved OP and zoning bylaws which directly address this specific area.

  • dave turner

    Alfred, I agree with you for the first part of you comment. It is absolutely no business of ours. The dealings between landlord and tenant and the motives behind each position are no e of the public’s business.

    However, I must disagree with your characterization of the Mayor. She is not anti-development. I believe a fairer characterization of her position is that she, like it would seems a position shared by a large majority of residents, is anti irresponsible, over intensive, lake blocking, wind tunnel creating, soulless development, which does not address resulting infrastructure needs.

    There are huge hurdles to overcome should someone wish to develop the strip along the waterfront side of Old Lakeshore Rd, including, the presence of heritage buildings, the “top of bank” distance requirements, the new Region and Province compliant OP & zoning bylaws.

  • Alfred

    Why would the owners Mayrose Tyco. or the tenant Mr. Kowalchuk have to disclose their personal affairs with us. What business is it to us. These might be stressful times for them. My take would be 1. The lease was up. Landlord did not want to renew. 2.Tenant did not want to renew. 3. Tenant worked hard enough has had enough, wants to retire. 4 We have an anti-business anti-development Mayor that has created absolute caos in the dowtown area. Creating an atmosphere were the restaurant could not be sold or released to any sane person. Stability is the first thing business owners should look for. Not with this Mayor. She makes up her own rules as she goes along and has little regard for the rules she is supposed to follow. Her followers blame the previous council. Yes the ones who elevated the City of Burlington to the status of Best Mid Sized City for roughly 6 years in a row. Give or take a year. We had it very good. For those who followed this Mayor you deserve her. In fairness Covid 19 has not helped the Mayors anti-everything destabilizing policies either. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be lost by investors that made the mistake of investing in this community. Let alone all the jobs lost and money they would have provided for local business.

  • Rob n

    Pathetic planning to have all those high rises blocking the view of the lake.
    Just like in Toronto. You’d never know the city had a water front.
    And you’ll never get it back.

  • Penny Hersh

    Any truth that the owner of the property enacted a clause in the lease which forced him to close?

    I for one, would like to know. It is unfair for residents to believe that the owner of a successful restaurant was unable to keep going through the current situation when this is not the case.

    I have emailed my ward 2 councillor for some transparency.

  • Kathy Lupton

    I was a teen, ( 1968- 69 ), working after school + weekends @ the Estaminet . I was hired by Midge + Brian Cooper. I started out setting up tables in the Dining Room, under the strict supervision of the Head Waitress , Carol. It was such a Beautiful place, with a Gorgeous view !! I also worked in the Coat Check Room , on winter nights, when big banquets were held. I loved working @ the Estaminet ! Just to know that ” The Queen ” had eaten there was amazing to me !! One year, I saved enough money, to take my Mother to Dinner @ the Estaminet, for her Birthday . We had their famous Orange Duck Dinner + it was Delicious !!
    It would be SAD to see this Historical place GONE !! I was born in Burlington , @ home, + my Brother , also known as ” Downtown Jimmy ” , still lives in the house he was born in, where I grew up. Boy, Burlington has really changed since 1951 !!

  • Lynn Crosby

    I assume the developer has long been waiting to develop this area and COVID was a good reason to do it now. What a hideous mess it will be if the Carriage Gate and CORE projects go ahead, along with the other nearby towers. And here are we years later with the Bridgewater STILL not done, which wouldn’t be allowed today because of Conservation Halton rules, and has got to be one of the most dull and ugly looking buildings I’ve seen in the last decade.

    Hope we don’t have another pandemic – where would we put the thousands of people from 5 high-rises in this small area plus the twin towers across from City Hall when they want to get out for some air? On the pier? Thank you to the prior councils for your utter lack of leadership and foresight.

    Perhaps COVID will make people re-think just how much density and how little open green space and walkable amenities they are willing to live with. (And I don’t mean a rooftop garden).

  • Jim Young

    It is my understanding that the building has a Heritage Designation. That should also make any potential development more complex and interesting.
    Also many memories of the Best Sunday Brunch in Burlington in the 1980s. It was The Estaminet then if my memory is correct.

  • Stephen White

    Sadly, the demise of Emma’s is just the prelude of what is going to be a very long, gruelling and painful evisceration of businesses across Canada.

    I watched CNN this morning, and they had on a Professor of Economics from the University of Chicago discussing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on job losses. He estimates that 42% of all jobs in the United States will be permanently lost. In addition, his model estimates at least 100,000 restaurants will disappear. Since the U.S. is far more buoyant than Canada, and given Americans are far more entrepreneurial, my guess is the impact proportionately will be worse here

    Once again…where is the response/leadership from our City Council, as well as our business community leaders? Council is debating the stray dog crisis in Burlington parks. Really? The Chamber and the Downtown Business Development Corporation are sponsoring seminars and hosting fitness videos. At least the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has been been front and centre actively advocating for commercial rental and tax relief.

    Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s former Chief of Staff and former Mayor of Chicago, is quoted as saying “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. Timely advice our civic leadership might want to consider.

  • Steve

    So many fuzzy memories at the, Tree Top. Sad.

  • Joe Love

    It’s sad to see history going to big money development. Emma’s, the Esteminet owned by the Cooper’s. will just be things of the past. SAD. Even the moving of the cairn bell a few years ago These things mean nothing to investors? Joe.