Commentary

Public Meeting with New Horizon Regarding City Square Phase 3

After working closely with the Durand Neighbourhood Association on a plan for City Square, the developer has since applied for a zoning variance that breaks his earlier commitment to the community.

By Kelly Foyle and Simon Kiss
Published May 12, 2013

this article has been updated

Durand residents packed a room in the Ryerson Community Center last week to attend a meeting on the proposed zoning amendment for New Horizon's City Square development at the corner of Park and Bay Street.

City Square building 1 under construction (RTH file photo)
City Square building 1 under construction (RTH file photo)

While Jeff Paikin, President of New Horizon Homes, was in attendance, he stood at the back of the room for most of the meeting, allowing GSP Groups, his hired planning consultants, to host it.

They explained that New Horizon has applied for a zoning amendment for the third and smallest remaining block. This block is currently permitted to host a four-storey building with twelve units. New Horizon wants approval for 17 storeys with 159 units.

The entire site is currently approved for 188 units. Thus, they are asking to almost double the number of units on this site.

In addition, most of the space between the buildings that was previously allotted as green space will now be replaced with surface parking. Between these parking spots and the underground parking lot, over 340 parking spaces will be part of this plan.

While these amendments are shocking, perhaps most shocking of all was the disregard and disrespect for the Durand community and the Durand Neighborhood Association (DNA).

The planning consultants from GSP Groups were clearly unprepared for the meeting. They seemed to have no knowledge of the history of the project and when asked simple questions like 'how many parking spaces will there be' were unable to answer and gave 'rough guesses'.

They also presented incorrect information, claiming that DNA had met with previous owners but never New Horizon, which is completely untrue.

They told the current DNA president, Janice Brown, she could leave her contact information with them and they could try and address her concerns. This was quite insulting, considering the DNA has worked closely with New Horizon for years.

Through all of this, Paikin stood at the back and let these consultants muddle their way through meeting. Finally, when asked by a resident, he came to the front and stated that while he had met with the DNA, he had never made any 'promises' about the third block.

Several board members were surprised to hear this, given that we had met many times. In fact, the DNA supported New Horizon's past zoning amendment to the second tower to allow for two more storeys (nine to eleven).

Paikin met with the DNA board in April 2012 to discuss this amendment. At the time, he explained very clearly his intentions to build either townhouses or no units at all at the third site. He also explained how important it was to him to maintain an open dialogue with the community.

Yet in the Fall of 2012, he applied for the zoning amendment for the third site without informing the DNA, or any owners of the other two towers.

It was deeply troubling to see him state so clearly that none of the previous conversations and commitments had transpired. He was also quite clear that he fully intended and expected this amendment to pass and that there would be little we could do.

Naturally, the residents in attendance were quite upset. Many brought documents illustrating previous plans presented by New Horizon, which never depicted a 17-storey tower.

At least three owners of units in Tower 1 were in attendance. They expressed their dismay and disappointment at these changes. However, they were unable to voice much opposition because they had signed a clause in their contract forbidding them from opposing any zoning amendments.

Many residents felt betrayed, and at times the meeting became quite heated. Only one resident seemed to voice approval for the project, but his approval seemed to focus mostly on the success of tower one. It was not clear if he supported the amendment.

So where do we go from here?

It was clear to those in attendance last night that Jeff Paikin and New Horizon are not as 'committed to the community at large' as they claim, and as is stated on their website.

Based on the high demand for Tower 1 and 2, they have decided to try and build the largest possible tower on the third site. They apparently want to maximize their profits and don't care about the community at all or the residents that have bought units in the other towers.

At this stage, the application will go to city staff. They will present their recommendations to the planning committee, which will then either approve or disapprove the application. From there it will go to council, which will vote on the amendment.

Duranders and the DNA will continue to oppose this amendment and could appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) if it is required. It is imperative that the community mobilize to express their disappointment with this developer.

The decision will most likely be made at council, and it is not clear how councillors in other wards will react, given that this new development will mean more tax revenue for Hamilton.

One can only hope that they will want to send a clear message to developers that they need to work with the community to develop projects that will balance density with neighbourhood needs, something Paikin once promised us he would do.

with files from Nicholas Kevlahan

Update: the article originally stated that the DNA "fully indends" to appeal this rezoning to the OMB. This is incorrect: the DNA is considering an OMB appeal but has not made a formal decision. RTH regrets the error. You can jump to the changed paragraph.

Kelly Foyle and Simon Kiss have recently moved to downtown Hamilton. Kelly is an astrophysicist at McMaster and Simon is a political scientist at Wilfrid Laurier. They've enjoyed watching Hamilton grow even in the short time they've been here.

11 Comments

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted May 12, 2013 at 11:57:35

That's at least two articles by the DNA. Is it possible to get Paikin's/New Horizon's take on this?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 13, 2013 at 14:02:28 in reply to Comment 88654

I have invited them to submit an op-ed. We'll see if they respond.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted May 13, 2013 at 13:46:55 in reply to Comment 88654

Paikin's/New Horizon's position was fairly clear at the public meeting: We're denying any knowledge of planning or agreeing to a four-storey building on Park and we need to maximize ROI (e.g. we had no idea sales would go so well). Also, the sun shadow study on surrounding properties is negligible and there is no need for a traffic study!

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 12, 2013 at 15:47:14

One of the most frustrating things about the GSP and New Horizon presentation (besides the lack of preparation and obvious tone of condescension) was the way they used progressive urban design catch phrases in a sort of cargo cult manner.

They talked about the advantages of density in terms of leveraging existing services, without recognizing that the 300 or so residents of the original proposal already more than achieved the 'densification' goal, and that the effects of density are nonlinear: no new services or upgrades up to a certain density, and then a need for significant upgrades beyond a certain level. The new plans imply around 520 residents on a 0.78 Ha site with zero current residents ... this might indeed require upgrades or redesigns.

GSP talked about how they had opted for towers rather than slabs to preserve views and a better streetscape, in a weird sort of parroting of Vancouver tower and podium designs. In fact, what we have is an ad hoc risk minimization design of a succession of 1970s style towers with no podium surrounded by surface parking. And the obvious dishonesty that the current design was only (apparently) dreamt up after towers 1 and 2 had been designed, and takes up the entire surface of block 3. They couldn't have built a slab there if they wanted to, or, equivalently, they are building a 17 storey slab!

The most telling aspect was the complete absence of the architects.

I've interacted with architects quite a bit, and I know they are typically passionate about their projects and love to explain why their design is so great for the site and purpose. There was no mention at all of architecture, and Paikin himself was clear that the architects remit was simply to cram the biggest cheapest building possible onto the small block 3 site (maximize margins and take advantage of demand).
If the design really is so great and responds so sensitively to the site, let's have the architects themselves tell us why!

After looking at their website http://www.knyarchitects.com/, it is pretty clear why they weren't present: they seem to specialize in anonymous corporate style architecture where the main concern is to provide a 'solution' to the developer.

I'm surprised that some of their buildings were actually architect (rather than builder) designed, such as Spencer Creek Condos in Dundas and this Hampton Inn http://www.knyarchitects.com/portfolio/h... and other suburban and ex-urban chain hotels. There are a couple of good projects (the Gowlings restoration and the concept for the Riccio towers). Compare and contrast with KPMB ... http://www.kpmb.com/

Maybe the nameless architect responsible for the block 3 design would like to write something on RTH to try to convince us why this is a great design!

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted May 12, 2013 at 16:54:42 in reply to Comment 88667

After looking at their website http://www.knyarchitects.com/, it is pretty clear why they weren't present: they seem to specialize in anonymous corporate style architecture where the main concern is to provide a 'solution' to the developer.

One needn't even scroll through their web site - simply take a quick look at their headquarters at Harvester and the South Service Road in Burlington.

PS Sorry about the double post - for some reason, I could not delete or edit the one at https://raisethehammer.org/article/1852/... Editors may feel free to delete that one.

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By textbook (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2013 at 11:19:53

Density! Density!! Density!!!
Why does everyone feel the need to fight everything? You're the same people that complain that Hamilton isn't developing.
This is great news! And from what I can tell, they are going through the APPROVED processes properly!

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By DMF (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2013 at 15:54:42

At the meeting, the developers claimed that the 4-story plan was proposed by the previous owners and that it wasn't something that they ever thought feasible. Yet they knew this is what the property zoning supported when they purchased. Now all of the sudden, they want it changed.

We heard from people who had already purchased Phase 1 units who were horrified to learn of the change, claiming that the developer told them it would be 4-stores in phase 3. Additionally, the majority of the promised green space has been turned into (visitor) surface parking to accommodate the increased density. All in all, a very different development than what they bought into.

This is old bait and with. It's a shame - the developers have an opportunity to build something special with this development but it appear that they're throwing away their chance for the sake of extra profit.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 14, 2013 at 18:51:41

Just so everyone is clear, nothing underhanded is happening here. The owners of the property are applying for a re-zoning of that parcel of land.
Land rezoning is available to all of us should someone ever desire to add a business to their property or turn residential into commercial etc.... it is a straightforward, public process. Residents and city planners are given the chance to weight in on the proceedings and then a preferred recommendation is made to city council.

Who knows what will happen in this particular case, but one good piece of news can be taken out of situation - clearly, there is a demand for quality condo units in downtown Hamilton. We're seeing the first condo projects built in 2 decades downtown and the continued demand is great news for all of us.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted May 17, 2013 at 14:53:01

A few observations

  1. It is a zoning change application. It hasn't been granted yet. It may be, may not be.
  2. The Thistle Club site sat vacant for YEARS, becoming nothing more than a run down eyesore and a depository for dog shit and garbage.
  3. There is a clear demand for high end condo living in down town Hamilton. Every one should be celebrating this
  4. Is anyone really suprised that a developer with his own skin in the game would like to maximize his ROI? Really? Development charges are required to be paid up front by the developer before construction begins. Yes they are ultimately passed on to the consumer but this can take years to recoup.
  5. NIMBYISM never ceases to amaze me.

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By Homophones (anonymous) | Posted May 22, 2013 at 01:09:48

Is Paikin a relation to TVOs Steve Paikin ?

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By Ceftomicelief (anonymous) | Posted September 08, 2013 at 04:05:55

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