Waterfront Hotel to be demolished - three structures will go on the site - planners excited about the potential.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

February 11, 2015


Well – things along the waterfront are just popping and hopping.

We learned last week that the contractor who was going to build the Bridgewater project filed for Bankruptcy and that New Horizon has taken over that project.

Bridgewater from lake on the east

The Bridgewater was the first major development on the waterfront in the core of the city to be approved – that was in 1985 – they called it a “legacy” project then.

Then we learn that the hotel will be a Marriott Hotel and not a Delta. Then we learn that the Mariott Group had bought the Delta operation. This hotel you will recall was going to be open for people attending the Pan Am Games in Hamilton this summer. Burlington missed out on that opportunity. We didn’t miss out completely – we got to build a new park almost on the North West border of the city that will have soccer pitches for the soccer teams to practice on.

The public will not be allowed to watch those practices. But we digress.

The Bridgewater project will overcome the bumps it has hit.

ADI rendering from SW

The ADI Development Group came along a few months ago and began the process to get a 28 storey structure a block away from the Bridgewater. Some think that won’t fly.

The ADI Development Group will grind away and do their best to get their 28 storey project approved – not at city hall but at the OMB.

All kinds of things happening on the waterfront.

Then the public learns that the Waterfront Hotel site is going to undergo a massive change.

The existing hotel will get demolished and three structures will be built – an 8 storey building, a 22 storey building and a 25 storey building.

Waterfront hotel with pier at foot

The Waterfront Hotel has always been seen as a prime development site – the six storey hotel will come down and be replaced by three structures: 25-22 and 8 storeys assuming the set back from the water’s edge issues can be resolved.

The existing parking lot contains approximately 135 spaces. The hotel was constructed in 1986 and abuts city owned parkland to the west and south. The site is relatively flat, sloping from east to southwest. There is a 4m grade difference between Lakeshore Road to the water’s edge.

It is going to be hard for the city to argue against the ADI project when there is a 22 story condominium in the process of being built almost across the street and now a project that it less than four blocks to the west that will have three structures – two of which will be more than 20 storeys.

The demolishing of the Waterfront will allow for structures that can face westward and take in all that Spencer Park has to offer.

The development potential for this site has been a gleam in the eye of both those who have struggled to get some traction and bring some real vibrancy to the downtown core and the long term thinkers in the planning department.

The early stage thinking on the potential of a site that was once the location of a canning factory goes back to before the current city hall was built.

The idea of a ‘master plan’ for the waterfront goes back to 2003-5 when the city was developing plans for the waterfront park – including the pier and Discovery Landing. A series of design charettes

Royal Host owned the hotel lands and participated actively in the design charettes – they were interested in redeveloping the site as they had done with their property in Kelowna BC

The City’s consultants developed preliminary concepts for the hotel redevelopment which included the idea of constructing below grade parking in the area of land between the existing hotel and water (city owned lands known as the headlands)

The idea then was for a park area would be elevated from the current grade, accessed by stairs – thus no net loss of park land; it was one of the key principles. But the ideas and concepts, as exciting as they were, never got beyond the preliminary stage. At the time City Council directed staff to enter into a joint master plan process with Royal Host – and discussions began on a cost sharing. Royal Host ultimately didn’t proceed but staff and Council recognized that at some point a redevelopment proposal was likely to come forward and took the pro-active step of adopting design principles for the site and putting in place an official plan policy that required a master plan to be done before any redevelopment could happen

Time changes everything. Conservation Halton regulations eliminated the potential for development (including parking) on the city-owned lands – but the principles that Council approved, including the need for a master plan (or planning study) remain relevant

Waterfront Hotel Dev study area

Red line area is where the three structures would be located; blue line sets out the study area.

With a proposal from Vrancor the study process begins again with the city managing a process that will bring three development concepts; one from the developer and two from the consultant based on public input and the design principles approved by Council.

The Vrancor Group which owns the Waterfront Hotel and was described as being a significant player in the hotel business was  represented by Ken Dakin – the man who got Mayrose Tyco past the hurdles when they ran into new Conservation Halton regulations.
Vrancor would have preferred to proceed by way of a traditional applicant driven process but understands the Official Plan policy which calls for a study which isn`t that much of an impediment given that the city has done a lot of the work previously.

Vrancor appreciates the opportunity to table its redevelopment concept as one of three concepts to be evaluated in the study, as set out in the Terms of Reference.

Canning factory waterfront

Away back when there were horses pulling wagons on Brant Street and the Freeman Station was taking loads of fresh produce to locations around the world there was a canning factory at the foot of Brant. It was said one could smell the tomato sauce as far north as Caroline

Given the opportunities of the property for mixed use redevelopment, Vrancor wants the study to proceed with an open mind with respect to density, height and floor area ratio.
The shoreline setback is critical to redevelopment on the property. Vrancor wants to resolve the setback with Conservation Halton before the planning study proceeds beyond consultant selection. Vrancor is currently pursuing the shoreline setback matter by way of technical submissions to Conservation Halton.

Vrancor accepts responsibility for the cost of the planning study, subject to its review and approval of the consultant cost. Vrancor does not want to incur study costs until the shoreline setback is resolved.

City Council assures everyone that there will be all kinds of public participation. Yes, but the following from Vrancor’s planner hints at just how much the public is going to see: “I have instructions to advise that concept plans are not available for publication.”  Not all that encouraging is it.  In the Terms of Reference for the study public participation is set out:

• Four public sessions: One to launch the process and confirm values and principles, one workshop to develop preliminary development concepts, followed by a meeting to present and review the three development concept alternatives, and a final public meeting to review the draft Official Plan (OP) policies, zoning and design guidelines.

There is a “stakeholders committee” on which there is decent public representation:

Ward 2 Councillor
Developer or Representative
Planning and Building
Transportation Services
Conservation Halton
Region of Halton – Planning and Public Works representatives
Downtown Business Association
Two Members of the Public to include
One resident from the downtown
One resident from the broader city
Parks and Recreation
Others as may be determined by the Steering Committee from time to time

Waterfront Hotel study process line

This is the process that will be out in place – but nothing gets done on time when the lakefront is involved.

Planning staff will ultimately select a preferred development concept and the Waterfront Hotel Lands Planning Study will send a recommendation to Council.

Look for something in about eight months – assuming Ken Dakin can stick handle the set back issues past Conservation Halton.

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9 comments to Waterfront Hotel to be demolished – three structures will go on the site – planners excited about the potential.

  • Peter Rusin

    Miami north. Burlington. Fun. Imagine.

  • Chris Ariens

    Megaprojects that do not fit in with the city’s existing infrastructure, constraints and realities are destined to fail. A strong city is one that evolves, doesn’t stagnate, but also doesn’t try to bite off something bigger than it could feasibly digest.

    When people mention casinos and convention centres, these kinds of developments are notorious for producing that effect. Atlantic City comes to mind more than Miami. I’m hopeful that sense will prevail over schemes that leave little in their wake but ruin.

    I’m more concerned about poor quality design and cheap materials being used than I am about height. We have a real opportunity here to build something that will clearly add more value to the community than the existing parking lot, and provide much greater pedestrian access and connections between Lakeshore Road, other Downtown streets and the lake.

  • Joan

    By all means let’s ruin the natural beauty and destroy our wild life habitat for the all mighty dollars folks. Miami is just destroyed a beautiful place, and are paying the price for it. Pollution and crime seem only fitting for such greedy purposes.
    I hope we above that here in Burlington. Greed should not be the motivation for development. This area can be improved and maximised without raping nature in the process.

    • James

      What are you even talking about Joan? “Raping nature”?? What wildlife habitat exists on this property? We’re not talking about a butterfly reserve here, we’re talking about a hotel property that’s completely paved over, and barely has a tree on it. This has nothing to do with greed, and don’t even try to play the tree hugging game. This is a fully developed property in the urban downtown core of an identified intensification area. Your statement is the epitome of the ignorance routinely demonstrated by the anti-development establishment in this city. Burlington is not a time capsule. It’s time for you and people who think like you to come to terms with that reality.

  • Peter Rusin

    Miami Florida is one of the best examples in the world on how to develop waterfront lands.

    In Miami, they probably have full control over their conservation authority minions who know when not to step in the way of a good thing, notwithstanding being prone to hurricanes and flooding on an annual basis.

    Who is running the program in this city? Since there is no new access opportunities to the lakefront, we should put up a collection of high end high rise condo buildings (40-50 storeys) with casinos, high end restaurants, a pier that can accommodate boat traffic to encourage tourism and local spending to support the downtown businesses aside from the one day annual event at the village square where nobody spends any money.

    Burlington, Miami north? could be the right vision for this city.

    • Anthony Pullin

      Burlington can be like Miami? Great, see you at the beach tomorrow – it’s gonna get up to -18C! You do make a good point about the lakefront access opportunities (which are diminishing).

  • Yvonne

    Big opportunity yes,will Council screw it up ———–yes

  • Shannon Gillies

    I agree with James. This is a big opportunity to build something truly stunning, but I don’t think this is the right spot for a 20-storey building. I’d love to see something like a beautifully-designed convention centre here. Where does it say there are going to be three separate structures built?

  • James

    BIG OPPORTUNITY HERE!! This cannot be overstated enough! One of the most highly visible properties in all of Burlington, this could be a real game changer. Let’s hope Conservation Halton and City Hall don’t ruin it by forcing a lesser quality development than what this property deserves. Everyone must think long-term here. 4 storeys is not the way of the future. 20+ storeys is. Now is our chance, so let’s place status quo on the shelf this time, and really open our minds. This is a once in a lifetime golden opportunity to work with the developer and produce a high quality development that we can all be proud of. This property will be the face is our city for generations to come. The future is now. Let’s not blow this!