Two very different views on how the Waterfront Hotel property should be re-developed are now on the table. How we got to this point is a long story. It is your city - make your views known.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

November 10, 2017


Burlington is in the midst of perhaps the most significant changes it has had to deal with in 20 years.  Brant Street is going to look a lot different in ten years; the waterfront will undergo some change.  The way people get around the city will change.  These are all complex matters.  The Gazette will publish a series of articles on what is planned for the Waterfront Hotel site at the foot of Brant Street.  This is the first of that series.

A number of years ago during a conversation with a resident about the planned development of a property that was once the Rivera Motel I mentioned the proposed height. The resident said: “I don’t think you have that right, the city would never allow a building that high on the south side of Lakeshore Road in the Downtown core.”

Bridgewater from the west - higher elevation

Architectural rendering of the Bridgewater project – view is from the lake. The Waterfront Hotel re-development is to the left (west) of the Bridgewater project.

Little did she know that the city had indeed approved – in 1995 – a structure that was originally going to be 30 storeys but got cut back to 22 storeys. They called it a “Legacy” development in those days.

Today it is known as the Bridgewater project: it rises higher and higher each day as the three structure development begins to change the skyline.


Dee Dee Davies, the woman who does a lot of the legwork from the Burlington Waterfront Group sent us a note recently saying there is “Lots happening related to our waterfront.

“This relates to the hotel and private lands at the foot of Brant Street and Lakeshore Road. The city wants to get ahead of the game by determining the resident’s perspective and setting new zoning standards for the updated Official Plan.

Site aerial

The Waterfront Hotel is on the left – the excavated site of the Bridgewater three structure development is on the right.

Following several community workshops, where the city’s consultant appeared to be taking note of the community’s wishes, a preferred concept was presented at the final public workshops on September 14.

That preferred concept “calls for two buildings with various numbers of levels stepped down towards the lake. The west tower would be between 14 – 18 floors and the east tower between 20 – 25 floors, with a 25 metre separation between the towers as public space.

This retains the view corridor along John Street. The buildings would be commercial, residential, hotel, and public service (public washrooms) uses.

Dee Dee Davies went on to say that: “Residents have concerns over this preferred concept on so many fronts. We heard they want only buildings on the east side closest to the Bridgewater complex of less than 20 stories to maximize green space adjacent to Spencer Smith Park. We, along with some of our community partners, are working to develop a concept plan that meets residents needs and present this to city staff before they meet with Council in November.

Dee Dee Davies wants to ensure that the alternative concept put forward by the residents gets serious consideration before it is too late.

On Thursday, Sept. 14, two community workshops took place at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre. At the workshops, results from a survey that asked for input on three concepts for the site were shared and an emerging concept for the site was presented. Table group discussions also took place to obtain further input.

The city has said that “With input from the Sept. 14 meetings as well as information from additional technical studies, the emerging concept will be refined. Draft preferred concepts are expected to be presented to Burlington City Council in November 2017.”

Burlington is a different city today – what city council decided to do in 1995 for the Bridgewater project is not what they would get away with today.

Many are very upset with what they see coming out of the Mobility Hub studies. Some are apoplectic over a 23 storey tower going up across the street from city hall. That decision has been made; it was approved on a 5-2 at a Standing Committee meeting and goes to city Council on November 13th for final approval.

Waterfront site

The darker blue area is where the Waterfront re-development is going to built. What the Bridgewater development will look like when completed is on the right.

The work being done by the Waterfront Hotel Planning Study is being led by Todd Evershed and Rosalind Minaji. Their mandate is a study that specifically addresses redevelopment options for the Waterfront Hotel site at 2020 Lakeshore Road. The team has ongoing discussion and dialogue with the planners doing the Mobility Hub planning.

The Waterfront Hotel Planning Study Stakeholder Advisory Committee includes Mayor Rick Goldring, Councillor Marianne Meed-Ward, Darko Vranich owner of the hotel, Kyle Plas, Denise Beard, Charles Priddle, Curt Benson, Lisa De Angelis, Mark Eade, Susan Morrissey and Hashem Mousavi

“The Waterfront Hotel planning study will guide the property owner in the redevelopment of the site. Located next to two of Burlington’s most significant landmarks, Spencer Smith Park and the Brant Street Pier, input from residents is needed to ensure the new development reflects a high quality of urban design that enhances the community’s access to the waterfront and the downtown.”

The Planning Study for the redevelopment of the waterfront site at Lakeshore Road and Brant Street, including the Waterfront Hotel, has been underway for some time. Some of the land south of the Waterfront Hotel is landfill which brought the Conservation Authority into the picture.

The city has known for some time that Darko Vranich owner of the hotel has wanted to increase the density on the property and construct a much larger hotel complex.

The thinking, going back at least ten years, was to re-orient the hotel and have its focus westward along what is now called the Naval Promenade. All kinds of reports and studies were commissioned.

When the owner of the Waterfront hotel let the city know that he wanted to add some height to the land there was an agreement struck that the city would hire people to come up with some design ideas. Three teams of designer/thinkers were to be assembled; two would work with the city – a third would work with the developer. And the developer would pay for all three studies.

That got us to where we are today.

But the natives are restless – they have seen where the developers want to take Brant Street and they fear that the Waterfront hotel property development will become yet another development they have no input on.

The city explains that: “The goal of the Planning Study is to establish the Strategic Framework to guide development on the site by generating and assessing Alternative Redevelopment Explorations, through a public consultation process. The result of the study will be an Official Plan Amendment and Zoning By-law Amendment.

The Brant & Lakeshore Planning Study will establish a Strategic Framework to guide development on the site.

They will develop and assess Optional Redevelopment Concepts along with any formal development applications submitted on behalf of the property owner

The redevelopment of this site must meet the City’s urban design and growth management goals, as well as enhance the adjacent public space and waterfront.

All this resulted in a series of Design Charrette sessions. Several frameworks were put in place to guide the design work – Land Use/ Built Form, Public Realm, and Mobility/Access were set out as the guiding principles.

During the design charrette sessions, led by a member of the Project Team, participants developed 8 Explorations for the study area. Four Explorations were developed in both the afternoon and evening sessions.

Each Exploration was developed within a unique framework with varying Land Use/ Built Form, Public Realm, and Mobility/Access characteristics and with the Vision Statement and Design Principles.

These concepts were posted for comment from the public, community groups, City staff, the Stakeholder Advisory Committee and The Planning Partnership team, and distilled into 4 Explorations based on the input received.

Here is what came out of those design sessions:

The ideas that came out of each Exploration session (there were four of them with afternoon and evening sessions) were displayed as a drawing and then as a visualization of the drawing.

Session 1

Exploration 1 Afternoon Cit

Exploration 1 Afternoon session

Exploration 1 Afternoon - Plan

City visualization Exploration 1 afternoon session



Exploration 2 afternoon plan

City visualization of the Exploration 2 afternoon session

Exploration 2 evenin cit

Exploration 2 evening event

Exploration 2 evening plan

City visualization of Exploration 2 evening session.



Session 2

Exploration 2 afternoon cit

Exploration 2 – afternoon session

Session 3

Exploration 3 afternoon public

Exploration 3 – afternoon session

Exploration 3 evening public

Exploration 3 – evening session.

Session 4

Exploration 4 evening public

Exploration 4 evening session

Exploration 4 evening city

City visualization of exploration 4 evening session


Out of all the work done by the design charettes two distinctly different views are now before the public.

The city planning department Preferred Concept and the design put forward by the community group – Plan B.

Plan B rendering

This is the plan that a citizen’s group wants. They have moved all the buildings on the east side of the site leaving a much more open area at the foot of Brant Street.

City preferred

The city planning department has put forward what they are calling the “Emerging Preferred Concept that will have the public access at the foot of John Street and a more limited access at the foot of Brant.


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6 comments to Two very different views on how the Waterfront Hotel property should be re-developed are now on the table. How we got to this point is a long story. It is your city – make your views known.

  • Marilyn

    A great part of the charm of Burlington is that it does not look and feel like Toronto
    Let’s keep it that way!

  • William

    The heroes of our community are people like Dee Dee Davies who valiantly fight for the community’ best interests even as the powerful developer interests, planning department and council are arrayed against her.

  • Judy

    We do not want extra tall buildings. Period. The planning department does.

  • Tom Perry

    How was the land for the present Waterfront ever acquired. Was it from the City or a private owner? The Council in the last meeting kept referring to downtown Brant to the Lake as The Cannery area. The history started in 1902. Why not give the land a Heritage designation?

  • Stephen White

    Interesting how one of the earlier concerns of residents during the Mobility Hubs reviews which was to ensure access to the view of the lake has now morphed into “a more limited access at the foot of Brant Street”.

    First, there isn’t the volume of visitors and travellers to Burlington to justify a hotel complex the size and magnitude of what Vranich envisages. There just isn’t. Moreover, we have several other hotels around the City and in the immediate area, including Oakville. I visit at least two of them regularly for business meetings. They aren’t teeming with business.

    Second, the size of development should be proportionate to the character and size of the community. Vranich may get away with a development of this scope and magnitude in Toronto but there are several other amenities in that location that would appeal to visitors. Frankly, Burlington can’t compete on that scale. Why stay in Burlington when you can travel half an hour down the road and have easy access to high end restaurants, several theatres, the Eaton Centre, Ripley’s Aquarium, Air Canada Centre, etc.?

    Third, where is the business case to justify or support the claims that there is sufficient demand?

    At some point, the Planning Department, the Mayor, Council and the aforementioned “Waterfront Hotel Planning Study Stakeholder Advisory Committee” need to start acting like adults. That requires asking tough questions and demanding detailed, substantive answers. Council should remember they are here to represent taxpayers’ interests and not behave like a 16 year old working at McDonalds’ taking food orders.

  • William

    It is no longer the public’s city. It’s the planners, filled with youthful enthusiasms for the latest planning fads that will eventually fall out of favour, who have fallen in love with their own plans. Despite the strong and mostly nasty personalities on council, they’re only rubber stampers to what Ridge and Tanner put in front of them. As elected representatives, they don’t represent their constituents; and they certainly don’t lead.