Will defining Brant Street as the spine of the city put some spine in future development thinking?

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

June 19th, 2017



When Robert Glover, a professional Architect, Registered Professional Planner and an Urban Designer with over 35 years of professional experience told a public meeting that Brant Street should be seen as the spine of the city – just what did he mean?

Glover was explaining the rationale for locating a proposed 28 storey tower on Brant Street opposite city hall.

Robert GloverWhile he was the planner hired by developer he was asking his audience to look at the bigger picture and decide what they wanted Brant street to become.

Study area 7 All + tall buildingsHe put a large graphic on the screen that showed just where the high rises in the downtown core were located – there were few that were actually on Brant Street – and Glover who has worked as a planner for both the public and the private sector was suggesting that some thinking needed to be done. Much of his work as a planner in the public sector was with the city of Toronto.

Glover is well aware that Burlington is not Toronto and he thinks that Burlington has a charm of its own that can and should be developed.

From civic sq

Will it dwarf city hall or will it add some majesty to Civic Square? Downtown will never be the same – and that is probably good news.

His view is that a 28 storey structure will not hurt or harm the city hall – a high rise, if done properly will enhance the city hall – “place buildings around it that feature city hall and the Civic Square”.

Cities need a structure – a backbone that keeps the city together.

“The backbone gives a body structure, strength – something that other parts of the city can be linked to.

“A spine gives a city a focus – a center and if done properly development can be staged so that the street that serves as the spine does not become a canyon.”

Glover realizes that making that happen is what the delicate art of planning is all about – it needs to be thought through – “they just don’t plop a building into a space because a developer has assembled a number of properties”.

There is a lot of development taking place along Lakeshore Road and south of it.

The impact this has on the feel of the city is critical – Burlingtonians know what their waterfront is about and they aren’t going to give up as much as an inch if they don’t have to.

But what about Brant Street – what works on that street? Not much actually. The Burlington Downtown Business Association continually talk about the “vibrancy” of the street – they seem to feel that if you continually call an area “vibrant” it will become vibrant. It doesn’t work that way.

City Hall itself is no longer an efficient building and doesn’t meet the city’s space requirements – a significant amount of space is rented in the Sims building across the street from city hall.  The politicians love to refer to city hall as an iconic building.

There is a report in a file at city hall that sets out what the city’s office space needs are and it beleived to have some recommendations on what to do with the existing building – doesn’t appear that report is going to get any public attention for some time.  So much for transparency.


It seemed to take forever for this three structure project to get shovels into the ground. When completed it will bring some much needed life to John Street.

The Carriage Gate group is currently constructing the Berkeley at John and Caroline where they have a three part project that includes a future medical centre, a parking lot and 20 storey condominium.

Getting that property to the point where they were able to get a shovel into the ground took a lot longer than they thought – determining who was going to pay for hauling the hydro lineup the street from Lakeshore revealed some bothersome problems with what Burlington Hydro was expecting of developers.

Their proposal for the property opposite city hall forces everyone to look at Brant Street and do some serious thinking about what the planners think it should look like and what the public thinks it should be.

The city’s Tall Building Design Guidelines put in place in January after a rather rushed process with very little in the way of public input.

The public focus is on the waterfront. Few appreciate that the five structure Paradigm project on Fairview will have 2000 residents when it is complete – that’s a small village yards away from Brant Street.

Further south on Brant there is a proposal for a buildings at the intersection of Brant and Ghent where the Burlington Square, one of the taller buildings on Brant, is going to be enhanced.

That kind of development attracts other developments and before you know it you have a city with a significantly different look and feel. Change of that kind isn’t something the public takes to easily.

Brant street getting ready

Brant Street comes to life when there is a major event taking place.

Which brings things back to the Glover view that Brant can be made the spine of the city. If Glover is right, and his success with previous projects suggest he knows what he is talking about, there is an opportunity to bring some real vibrancy to the street.

The Planning department has released design of what intensification could look like on Waterdown Road in the west, Appleby in the east, along with some ideas for the plaza at Guelph Line and New Street and some ideas for what Fairview east of Guelph Line could look like.

Interestingly – the Planning department hasn’t had all that much to say what they think Brant could become.
There is never going to be any commercial development to the west of the Brant – that is a solid residential community that watches what smaller developers want to build. It has to be very good to get past those residents.

But there is significant opportunity for both Brant and John, a street that has yet to figure out what it wants to be.

Hotel on lower Brant Street

They are historic and when they were built they were tall buildings – what are they today?

Glover thinks that if you treat Brant Street as the spine of the city a fundamental premise is in place that can guide future developments. There are parts of Brant Street that haven’t changed at all in 75 years.

The proposal for the high rise opposite city hall is now in the hands of the planning department – they will be sending their recommendation to city council in the fall.

Will a different look for Brant Street be part of their recommendation; it’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

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3 comments to Will defining Brant Street as the spine of the city put some spine in future development thinking?

  • Tom Muir

    This building is just too tall.

    We don’t need this to meet provincial edicts.

    The hired planner, no matter his or her qualifications, will always say what the client wants and hired them to say.

    Experienced ones can provide a lot of hyperbolic embellishment, and sales pitch material, about grandiose images of big picture, vibrancy, focus, landmark, structure.

    We don’t need the “spine” of a blue whale, or T-Rex. And 28 stories of bulk will dwarf city hall and everything else around it.

    In any case, a single vertebrae does not a spine or backbone make. Brant St. is a long way away from that in many ways.

    At bottom, this is about the billion dollars in condo sales, not much else.

    This will inflate property values, put Brant St. business out of business, and make a few very rich.

    Take less, at most 12 to 15 stories, and save everyone a lot of grief and cost.

    I’m probably being generous here, as this too might be too much and more than people will agree with.

    As Glenda D says above, where are all the cars going to go?

    As I suggested to the public meeting, add some floors of Office, in partnership with, or to lease to, City Hall, and up the proposal attractiveness and sale-ability based on real benefits that meet real needs.

    Everything else I see here are just words.

    That to me is the deception of it – good planning is what the planners say it is.

    Caveat Emptor.

  • Glenda D

    If we are to have a vibrant “downtown core” I hope the powers that be remember that with “location location location” goes “parking parking parking”….seems to me some are advocating to reduce and sell off some parking lots, could be wrong, hope so.

  • steve

    He says that this one highrise will not adversely affect Burlington’s downtown. The problem I see is the camel’s nose in the tent, the ice being broken, and so on. He says that Burlington needs a backbone of highrises to survive. There is another way of looking at survival, spending taxpayers dollars wisely and frugally so that never-ending expansion isn’t needed to increase the tax base.

    Editor’s note: The expansion isn’t being done to expand the tax base – the growth is being forced upon the city by the province – grow directs the problem and we will tell you where that growth should take place as well.