The plan the gets the most elementary stuff spectacularly wrong - and on a site that needs to be far more urban in its basic design.
By Ryan McGreal
Published August 08, 2014
this article has been updated
This morning, I posted an article about King Street West in Dundas that included a critique of the Shoppers Drug Mart at King and Albert. By coincidence, another Shoppers Drug Mart plan is on the agenda at this Tuesday's planning committee meeting (item 6.9).
Staff are recommending that the committee deny the proposal for a new Shoppers in Hamilton on King West near Dundurn. The recommendation states:
The proposal does not meet the policies of the Urban Hamilton Official Plan and the Council adopted Strathcona Secondary Plan (under appeal) with respect to facilitating a mixed-use development that respects and enhances the surrounding neighbourhood with respect to overall built form, scale, mass, and gradation of densities, and creating a development that is transit-supportive and enhances the pedestrian environment;
The proposed development does not represent an example of transit-oriented development that supports public transit and pedestrianism.
Shoppers applied under the old Official Plan for a permit to develop a standalone store set behind off-street parking on King, with a Tim Hortons (and drive-thru) pushed to the front for greater visibility and a multi-unit building behind it fronting onto Head Street.
The full property encompasses 620, 622 and 624 King Street West, 22 and 24 Dundurn Street North, and 41, 45, 47, 49, 55 and 59 Head Street.
You can read a summary of the story to date, but the short version is that the proposal has bounced back and forth between the City and the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) since 2012, including an OMB appeal in September 2013 after the City failed to respond to the proposal within 120 days (oops).
Overhead site concept (Image Source: City of Hamilton)
There are a few things to like in the plan, including the addition of new, slightly higher density residential units fronting Head Street, but the design also gets the most elementary stuff spectacularly wrong - and on a site that needs to be far more urban in its basic design.
The pharmacy and restaurant should be built to the sidewalk on King Street to faciliate walking and transit access, and they should be in a multi-storey mixed-use building that incorporates other uses, e.g. residential, on the upper levels. Instead, they are set all the way at the back of the block behind a deep off-street parking lot.
The only building fronting Dundurn is a standalone Tim Hortons, which includes a drive-thru loop behind the building with a
double-double order lane accessible to cars heading west on King or north/south on Dundurn. Not only is this a waste of important King Street frontage, but the drive-thru is a terrible fit for an already-busy intersection that should be an urban centre.
Remember that this corner is a key node in the City's east-west transit-oriented development plan. When the B-Line Light Rail Transit (LRT) line goes ahead, this is going be an important transit hub.
City planners did some excellent planning exercises with a local residents in 2011 in which they envisioned how the LRT stop could transform the precinct with new signature mixed-use buildings and gateway features.
King Street and Dundurn Street Design Charrette Concept (Image Source: B-Line Corridor Land Use Study)
I realize the city has a collective amnesia about the years of broad community engagement and detailed design and planning work that has gone into the LRT plan, but all that planning supports the City's own Official Plan, as well as the Province's Places to Grow framework - and those plans are still in effect.
If Councillors in the Planning Committee and at full Council ignore the staff recommendation and approve this plan, this key intersection will be stuck with a crappy, low-density (no density at the front of the block!) suburban development for decades.
We have an exciting opportunity to start designing and building for the city we want and need. Council need to reject the current Shoppers plan, fight it out at the OMB - there is good reason to believe the OMB will side with the City due to our planning framework - and demand excellence rather than meekly accepting whatever we get.
Update: this article originally stated that the planning meeting was on Friday. It's actually on Tuesday. RTH regrets the error. You can jump to the changed paragraph.
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