Ward 5 residents meet to say what they think should happen to the Lakeside Plaza and the Skyway arena.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

November 25, 2015



It was close to the largest citizen’s meeting this reporter has seen in Burlington. And no one was angry.

More than 350 people crowded the cafeteria at the Robert Bateman high school to learn about changes that may be taking place with what is sometimes referred to as the Skyway Plaza or the Lakeside Plaza but is now to be known as the Lakeside Village.

Lakeside Village - visioning meeting Nov 24-15

More than 350 people filled the Robert Bateman high school auditorium to hear what was being planned for their community and to give their views as well.

The reason for the get together was to go through a visioning exercise, “To create an economically successful mixed-use development incorporating residential, commercial and public uses resulting is a community-centered and vibrant development which positively impacts residents.”

It took a while to get to the pencil and paper work – an exercise that had 8 to 10 people at each table with a city hall staff member guiding the group through a series of questions –

Denise Beard at Lakeside Plaza visioning

Denise Beard, a manager in the Parks an Recreation department worked with are residents to take down the ideas they had for the plaza and the park.

What is your vision for the Sky Park and the arena?
What do you value in the neighbourhood?
What is missing in this community?
How could the existing homes be better connected to the plaza and the arena?

Lakeside Village visioning - Kaitline with man sneaky look

Kaylan Edgcumbe from the Planning department listened and took notes at one of the more than 20 tables.

The audience was being asked to go right back to core values and say what they wanted to see the plaza and the park become and how they could be better integrated.

Before they got to the “visioning” ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman, took the audience through what it had taken to get everyone to this point.  Sharman was quite a bit different with his presentation – he read from notes – which he seldom does and started off on a very positive note by telling the audience that Food Basics had let it be known that they were going to be a part of whatever change might be made and that the arena was going to remain. What about Shoppers Drug Mart someone asked “we don’t know yet” replied Sharman.

Rob Peachey, the man at city hall responsible for the development of the parks system gave a brief overview of where things were with the Burloak Park.

Denise Beard who manages community development for the Parks and recreation department talked about the thinking that was being done for the Skyway Park and arena.

Linking the parks

The bigger picture was to develop the arena, shown in light green, upgrade the plaza shown in light yellow and tie both to the Burloak Park at the edge of the lake.

The hope seemed to be that at some point an arena that met the needs of the community would be developed; that Burloak Park would be tied in more tightly to the plaza and that the plaza would take on a whole new look and become a much more vibrant part of the community.

There is a lot of work to get done before anyone does any building. Zahoruk hit the nail on the head when she said “development is risky and complex”. Getting the views of the area residents is a first step – having them on side is critical – but it is just a first step.

The main purpose was to do some “visioning” about Lakeside Village – it was also a meeting about St. Elizabeth Anglican church and the exercise they were going through; it was an update on the development of Burloak Park and setting out how the city was approaching what they were going to do with the Skyway arena.

It was a full schedule – and it progressed smoothly.

Lakeside Village Goldring - Zahoruk and Emilio

Mayor Rick Goldring talks to architect Cynthia Zahoruk and property owner Joe Elmaleh

Cynthia Zahoruk, the architect on the project said at the end of the evening that it has “gone better than I expected”. The next step is to pull together the notes taken by the facilitator at each table and get a sense of what the 350 people thought about what could be done and should be done with the site.

The site graphic

The potential to take a site that is worn down and certainly seen better days yet situated in a community with a balanced mix of single family dwellings, townhouses and high rise with as many as 19 storeys.

The property is owned by United Burlington Retail Properties Inc., (UBRP) a holding company with a number of interests in the areas. Joe Elmaleh, a director and vice president with the company didn’t want to say anything about any other properties other than they were a holding company and added that the property was acquired in 2001 and treated as a long term investment.

The property was beginning to deteriorate and had taken on a run-down look. The theatre and the bowling alley that were part of the property had not been used for years. The 9.5 acre site has 112,000 sq. feet of commercial space with a lot of it empty.

There was an interest in improving the site – the trick at the time was to meet with the property owners – and that wasn’t easy to do.  Sharman had the devil of a time getting in front of anyone at UBRP – during one of his visits to the property owners he couldn’t get past the receptionist.

Sharman at Lakeside Village visioning

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman, who organized the meeting talks to an area resident.

Frank McKeown, executive director of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation inserted himself into the process and in the fullness of time meetings were set up with the property owners.

They hired Cynthia Zahoruk as their architect and she brought in Dana Anderson as a planning consultant – both women work out of Burlington.  Anderson was with the Oakville Planning department at one point.

The group decided to meet with the public and hear what they thought.

It was a very good public meeting – no decisions were made. The city explained what it was doing in the area and they wanted to hear what the public thought.

“We don’t have any answers” explained Sharman and “none of the agencies have looked at anything yet.”

The property owners and their agents had meetings with the Planning department but there isn’t an application on the table yet.

Joe Elmaleh said UBRP was a long term investor and had a strong relationship with the city. That statement was a bit of a stretch – it had taken a long time to get them to the table – but they were there now and seemed prepared to listen.

The evening was planned as a listening event.  In 2014 Council issued a Staff Direction:


Direct the Director of Planning and Building and request the Executive Director of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation as follows:

Prepare a series of re-development options for the site based on intensive mixed use re-development and approach the owners of the property with the redevelopment plans; and
Investigate and report on the authority available to permit the use of incentives for re-developing the site, and
Provide an estimate of the resources needed to prepare and implement a Community Improvement Plan.

Lakeside with trees

The real hope was the trees – in an early stage drawing of the plaza. which is a pretty miserable looking place right now, the architect shows what the site could look like if the asphalt was peppered with trees.

It was that Staff Direction that got the ball rolling.

Now to hear what those 350 people in the Robert Bateman high school cafeteria had to say.

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5 comments to Ward 5 residents meet to say what they think should happen to the Lakeside Plaza and the Skyway arena.

  • Enid

    A very well intentioned and executed community engagement excercise initiated by Councilor Sharman. I know that he has successfully gone “hunting” for the owners of this plaza and through his efforts he has brought all interested parties to the table. This is commendable! Where it goes from here hopefully will be positive…this is a great beginning for local residents. Too bad the Ward 2 Councilor failed miserably to engage ADI and the local community in a similar way at an early date regarding the Martha St development proposal.

  • bonnie

    The organizers did a wonderful job last night and I believe residents left feeling positive about the community involvement in the Lakeside Village redevelopment project. As a senior, I am hoping we will see space allotted for senior indoor activities.

  • Helene Skinner

    Dear Ward 5 residents…us Beachway residents went through the same pointless exercise(s). Dog and pony show with lots of smoked mirrors in the background!!

  • Heather- resident of Elizabeth Gardens

    Who was at the meeting last night?
    I am ok with mixed use space, retail and community space with a low rise above of affordable housing, but no high rise towers.

  • Heather- resident of Elizabeth Gardens

    I am ok with mixed use space, retail and community space with a low rise above of affordable housing, but no high rise towers.