Downtown Bureau

Planning Staff Recommend Denying Television City Proposal

The project is consistent with provincial planning directives and the city's own Official Plan, but staff argue the design is incompatible with its surroundings.

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 19, 2018

Developer Brad Lamb has applied for amendments to the Urban Hamilton Official Plan and the Zoning By-Law to build two towers at 163 Jackson Street West, an L-shaped property at Jackson and Caroline. The two proposed towers are 125 metres (40 storeys) and 94.3 metres (30 storeys) tall, with 618 units in 474,080 square feet of residential space. Another 11,344 square feet will be dedicated to retail, office and restaurant space at street level.

Rendering of proposed development (Image Credit: Lamb Development Corp.)
Rendering of proposed development (Image Credit: Lamb Development Corp.)

Rendering of proposed development at street level (Image Credit: Lamb Development Corp.)
Rendering of proposed development at street level (Image Credit: Lamb Development Corp.)

The 618 units will be a mix of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units, with prices starting in the $220,000 range.

The rezoning application seeks to add retail, office and restaurant to the permitted uses for the site, increase the building height limit to 125 metres, reduce the mandatory minimum parking requirement to 397 spots in a six-level underground garage, establish a minimum bicycle parking requirement of 500 bike parking spaces, and adjust the setback requirements.

Proposed towers, north elevation
Proposed towers, north elevation

The Planning Committee will review the application at tomorrow's committee meeting (it's item 6.4 on the agenda). Planning staff have reviewed the application and recommend denying it.

According to the staff report, "It is a form of high density, mixed use development that would be incompatible with the established character of the area."

Project Conforms With Planning Directives

The staff report itself acknowledges that this project conforms with provincial planning directives. With respect to the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) on land-use planning:

The proposed mixed use building, consisting of 618 dwelling units and four commercial units at grade would contribute to the mix of land uses in Downtown Hamilton that would efficiently use land and existing infrastructure, and represents a form of intensification. The application seeks a reduction in the amount of required vehicular parking spaces, provides 500 bicycle parking spaces and the subject lands are located in close proximity to the Hunter GO Station. As such, the proposed conforms with the aforementioned provisions of the Growth Plan.

Likewise, the project "will have no negative impacts on heritage resources on or adjacent to the subject property. Indeed, it will preserve and adaptively reuse the Pinehurst Residence, a designated heritage building constructed in 1850 that sits currently on the site fronting onto Jackson Street.

1850 heritage building will be preserved as part of this development (RTH file photo)
1850 heritage building will be preserved as part of this development (RTH file photo)

Similarly, the development conforms with the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (Places to Grow) due to its central location and proximity to local transit, regional transit and the future LRT line and the fact that it will "contribute to the density target for this identified urban growth centre".

Even the city's own Urban Hamilton Official Plan supports the project. As staff note, the proposal "is consistent with Policy E.2.3.1.9 to encourage the City’s highest densities in the Downtown to make this area more vibrant and livable by providing for a significant housing development in the core, and supporting planned transportation infrastructure investments as per Policy E.2.3.1.8."

Likewise, the plan "supports transit, walking and cycling in the Downtown and adjacent neighbourhoods by proposing a reduced parking requirement, and 500 long-term bicycle parking spaces, which is generally encouraged in the Downtown."

And the addition of commercial space along Caroline and Hunter will "add to the function and vibrancy of the Downtown" and "increase the number of people who reside and work in the Downtown, which will enhance the daytime and nighttime activity levels of the core".

Surrounding Context

Yet despite all of this, staff are "concerned with the appropriateness of the density proposed on this property given the site’s contextual constraints." In rejecting the proposal, staff argue that the development and intensification goals "should be achieved through a form and density of development that more appropriately considers the existing character and pattern of development in the area."

Amazingly, staff argue that the decision to preserve the Pinehurst Residence results in "an over-intensification of the subject lands" in the two tower proposal, which "incorporates little design consideration and compatible integration relative to its surrounding context."

This is just bizarre reasoning. The surrounding local context is that of a mixed urban neighbourhood that already has a lot of tall buildings.

Television City location (highlighted in yellow) in local context (Image Credit: Google Maps)
Television City location (highlighted in yellow) in local context (Image Credit: Google Maps)

Lamb has already indicated that he will appeal this decision to the Ontario Municipal Board if Council rejects it. Based on how well it conforms to Places to Grow and the PPS, he is very likely to win that appeal.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

50 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By RobF (registered) | Posted March 19, 2018 at 13:48:12

This is just bizarre reasoning. The surrounding local context is that of a mixed urban neighbourhood that already has a lot of tall buildings.

Not really. Good planning requires fitting into a context and not overdeveloping/over-intensifying a parcel. Our City Planners should push back against this on those grounds.

Mr. Lamb is within his rights to appeal (like anyone else).

I think it is at best a toss-up whether he would win his appeal. He's asking for two towers on a superblock with two existing towers. If the city wants to defend rejecting the proposal it'll have plenty of ways to do so starting with minimum tower separation ... the proposal, like a few others, was submitted by the developer knowing it won't conform to the Tall Buildings design guidelines/policies in the new DTSP.

We need to get past the idea that intensification or good planning means as tall or large as a developer wants on the land they own. The staff report should not be read as saying no to a tall building on this site. It is saying this is too much. Come back with a more reasonable proposal.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 19, 2018 at 13:52:49

To my eyes, this appears to be a very peculiar design for a building. Why the wedge-shaped building on a rectangular lot? To me that just seems like a waste of space. Traditionally, such buildings, for example the Flatiron Building in Toronto, are that shape because the wedge-shaped lot forces them into that geometry.

Also, why two towers? The space between the two towers looks to me like wasted space. Why not fill it in to produce a larger rectangular building? Indeed, if we look at the photograph of the site in Ryan's article, we see that the existing building to the left of the site is one such larger rectangular tall building. So is the building above the site. So is the building kitty-corner to the lower left. These are all far more sensible designs.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 19, 2018 at 14:26:01 in reply to Comment 122593

I don't think it's wedge-shaped, I think it's just an oddly distorted image.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 19, 2018 at 14:29:43 in reply to Comment 122592

The whole province is in a horrible housing crunch. Maybe the right thing for cities to do is minimize the barriers to large multi-unit builds like this? After all, the current approvals process can take a year and a giant pile of money, and then still get incredible pushback from stakeholders like neighbors and city staff and leaders.

This has real consequences for everyone, not just "developer can't make money" - the reason we have such a problem with affordable housing is that even middle-class young people can't afford housing, pushing a tremendous block of the public onto a waiting list for affordable homes that vastly outstrip the government's ability to fulfill. A growing city that's not building enough units is a game of musical chairs where the people with the least means are the ones who end up without a chair. So shouldn't we be trying to remove the obstacles to making more chairs?

Compare to a city like Tokyo, which has no concept of variances or community consultation whatsoever. The zoning in Japan is federally designed - the fed sets the rules and the builder abides by them and the neighbors and local politicians are not involved. Tokyo is the largest city in the world and is (in spite of Japan's shrinking population) a growing city... and its housing is substantially cheaper than it homes are even here in Hamilton, much less Toronto.

http://www.sightline.org/2017/09/21/yes-...

I mean, everybody's talking about gentrification after the Locke attacks... and we're hearing a lot of elaborate discussions, but imho it's all coming from a basic, elemental problem: Southern Ontario is getting people faster than it's getting houses, which drives prices up. Not only that, but Ontario's finances will be in catastrophic trouble if we don't grow faster. For example the Fair Hydro Act only works if Ontario achieves some spectacular growth numbers where a massive number of ratepayers flow in to reduce the per-person cost of power power infrastructure.

Maybe it's time to say that densification projects genuinely should be on an approval fast-track, for the sake of the environment and our housing crunch?

Shouldn't the onus be placed on the city to come up with a good reason to block this kind of development, instead of being on the developer to prove why it's okay?

I realize I'm speaking from privilege since my house is nowhere near a location where this kind of project would be attempted.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2018-03-19 14:30:19

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 19, 2018 at 14:58:56 in reply to Comment 122595

agree with these thoughts....and my home has views of tall towers out of every window and in the backyard....I can see Vranich's current cranes and will certainly see the TV City towers and new King/Queen building when complete....I chose to live downtown with the hope that this is exactly what would happen...dense, mixed-use development on our empty lots and parking lots.

we can't complain about housing prices but then keep the inventory artificially low being only approving lower density projects.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 19, 2018 at 16:02:16 in reply to Comment 122594

Lamb has a similar wedge-shaped image front and centre as the very first image on their website.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By RobF (registered) | Posted March 19, 2018 at 16:21:07 in reply to Comment 122595

Listen to Mr. Lamb's own thoughts (from 4:50 to 6:00 minute mark, but specifically at about 5:30): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOTqpIqH...

Obviously we need more supply, and an important component is going to have to come from multi-unit buildings, but we still have to enforce sensible planning and design rules. And we need to be careful about assumptions we make about density and affordability ... density comes in different forms and taller isn't necessarily less expensive.

If approval times are an issue, then advocate for enough staff to process applications and support sensible policies that staff can stick to. Are you suggesting we just give our planning department a rubber stamp?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By fmurray (registered) | Posted March 19, 2018 at 18:23:20

The plan may very well meet some of the guidelines of Provincial Places to Grow and one or two of the Official Plan policies, but this article completely ignores other planning policies and guidelines: The Official Plan, Downtown Secondary Plan and Tall Building guidelines.

Transition from lower-rise buildings: No Stepbacks for higher building plans: No Retail/commercial opening onto the sidewalk: Nope

The tone of this article suggests that we should not question developers, should be grateful for whatever they offer and shut up. I disagree with that concept. We have to demand beautiful, well-designed buildings both in form and function.

The video shared by Rob gives a peek into the mind of Lamb -- he wants to rebuild the twin towers, to "define" the Hamilton skyline. The twin towers suited the foot of Manhattan as office buildings, they do not fit the context of this site.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 19, 2018 at 20:14:28 in reply to Comment 122603

Lol....30 and 40 stories is Manhattan now? Mississauga is up to 65-70 stories. Manhattan is a different planet than us. We're lowering our heights to Burlington's level. No setbacks are needed, and there is street retail in this complex. We need new residents and new housing units in a big way.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By KevinLove (registered) | Posted March 19, 2018 at 20:44:18 in reply to Comment 122604

We certainly need new housing for our existing population. Why do you believe that we need new residents?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted March 19, 2018 at 21:24:03

I think those buildings look like they belong in a big city. It's about time Hamilton!

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By RobF (registered) | Posted March 19, 2018 at 21:40:19 in reply to Comment 122604

Mississauga's "downtown" is flatland ... we have the Escarpment and the Bay. Views of which a lot of people apparently feel should be protected.

I'll put aside my curiosity as to whether our plan actually does that and just say that you are fond of pointing to places like Vancouver as examples of places "that get it", but don't seem to acknowledge that they use height limits and that a key component of their planning regime is protected view cones and the notion that downtown towers shouldn't replace the natural beauty of North Shore mountains as the City's backdrop.

And the whole if we are a real city we need to go taller and taller is a trope heard everywhere.

Unhappy developer in Vancouver:

“Grouse Mountain is 4,000 feet high and our Burrard Place, which is the third-tallest building in the city, 550 feet tall. Why should we ever worry that tall buildings could dominate our physical environment? Let’s finally let go of our bucolic fishing-village past and embrace the reality of a city that we have become in the eyes of the world.”

Well respected former chief planner:

“If we don’t want 1,000-foot-tall towers, we’re somehow stuck in a fishing village past?” Toderian asked rhetorically. “Come on.”

He had previously pushed for a select number of sites to be given exceptions to allow towers up to 700 feet ... it's never enough.

https://biv.com/article/2016/01/vancouve...

I think most towers in Vancouver are 20-35 storeys, though as time passes more are 40+

Something to think about ... they built a critical mass of buildings first, then started to liberalize heights starting about 10 years ago. Vancouverism was built off of the tower-podium combo mostly within the height limit we are now looking to implement. Rather than aim for just a few tall projects, I'd rather we repair more space and absorb our demand for condo units across more projects rather than fewer, but much larger ones.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Locke (registered) | Posted March 19, 2018 at 22:21:59

It seems to me the planning staff have some decent thinking about this. They're not saying no to development, but asking for the plan to be improved and conform to the secondary plan and best practices for set backs and Tall Building Design guidelines.

The biggest issue, I'd guess, is at 40 stories these two towers would be 2 to 5 times taller than the other tall buildings around them, while flaunting the rules suggesting 30 stories across the downtown. I'm not against 40 stories, but wouldn't these be more appropriate at King and James? Some variety of height would be appealing on this site and that can be achieved in 30 stories and not look quite so strange popping up from the nearby towers at almost double the height.

The other danger of allowing the developer to 'maximize' this particular parcel of land, is it then reduces the demand to produce maybe 180 housing units somewhere else downtown -- We don't need just two towers on one lot, but developments across the downtown which improve other parking lots and neglected properties too.

This just looks like Lamb wants to build towers on high land which he can sell at a premium for their guaranteed views. It will do nothing to alleviate housing shortages but will certainly maximize the developer's profits.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By fmurray (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 06:14:07 in reply to Comment 122609

This is exactly the case with this development. Yes, we need more density, but we can't fit all of our density targets for the city on this one site.

The developer knows that 30 & 40 storeys here will look more like 50 & 60 because of the placement on the Iroquois Bar.

But we should not DARE to question mass & height because the developer may pick up his ball and go home?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 06:42:20 in reply to Comment 122609

keep in mind this builder has 4 sites downtown he's working towards developing. Not just one. And many other developments are being proposed downtown. The idea that nobody will build anywhere else if they are allowed to build 32 stories instead of 30 isn't accurate.

Also, the city's design guidelines are overkill. Podiums aren't always necessary. Setbacks are absolutely not necessary. There are 28 and 32 storey buildings 1 block away. Oh, and a 43-storey building 60 seconds down Main St. We need to maximize our empty land downtown.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 06:43:58 in reply to Comment 122606

Our lower city is 25,000 less than it was in the 1970's. There's a reason for a massive financial crisis. We've stagnated for decades. Yes, we need much new housing options for current residents, but we also need to get growing again. You'll never find me defending the stagnant status quo. And anyone who does, really has no right to then complain about housing costs or taxes.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 06:49:50 in reply to Comment 122608

I think we agree on much here, especially the part about building a critical mass first. I've not seen one proposal come through yet that would be our new tallest building. Every single development proposes to fall under our previous 'record' from 1974. We are arbitrarily setting the bar far lower than it needs to be.

And this has been discussed at length elsewhere, any building taller than 12ish stories downtown blocks the view of the harbour as seen from the escarpment, and really any building at all downtown blocks the view of the escarpment from downtown. We don't have 4,000 foot mountains. We don't have any mountains.

If any city staff had gone to Sam Lawrence Park to get a lay of the land they would realize that they are probably wise to use the escarpment height as max limit east of Wellington, but west of Wellington looking north there is no water to see. The skyline blocks the view, and the harbour is super narrow to the NW.

Finally, I think they've got the height restriction all backwards. I would see the value in it if the restrictions were for areas south of Hunter or Young. But Hunter to Wilson, Queen to Walnut/Catharine there is no reason for a height limit.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 08:30:02 in reply to Comment 122611

Podiums are also often ugly imo.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 08:46:11

I think this article oversimplifies the question of how we evaluate new large scale development in a neighbourhood that is well established and already very dense (although not uniformly).

It is not good enough to say simply: we need more density, the developer is proposing higher density so it fits our plans and we should approve it, no questions asked.

There are several things about this project that do warrant deeper examination, which is what the planning department focused on:

  1. Although there have been mid to high rise apartments in the immediate area since the 1960s the current proposal is almost twice as high as highest neighbours (which are around 20-25 stories). Is actual height really a complete non-issue? Height does have some drawbacks: worse shading and wind tunnel effects, less usable space on each floor due to the need for services (decreasing the density advantage). It's previously been pointed out on this site that if density is the goal, 40 storey towers are not the only solution: mid-rise developments can often achieve similar densities due to smaller set-backs and more usable space on each floor. In addition, there is some evidence that high rise residential buildings can negatively impact the social life of the neighbourhood: https://www.smartcitiesdive.com/ex/susta... In brief, it is not obvious that higher is better as a way to achieve density or social inclusion.

  2. The height is amplified by the fact the buildings are on the highest strip of land below the escarpment.

  3. The city has rules around tall buildings and, in particular, that no building should be taller than the escarpment. The current development does not satisfy them. Many other cities have similar rules protecting views or other natural or human features from encroachment. Even the proposed new downtown plan would limit height to 30 storeys as of right, so this building would require an exemption.

  4. The building has no stepbacks and apparently no retail opening onto the sidewalk. It is not clear that the building will connect well at street level or instead overwhelm it and kill it with a blank wall. Vancouver has tried to mitigate the effect of tall buildings in various ways (including setbacks, tower/podium with condos or retail opening directly onto the street). Lamb is on record as saying he "hates" the tower/podium design.

  5. The attitude of the developer since the beginning has been high handed and uncooperative. As far as I know, he has not significantly modified the design in response to the review panel or residents, and he has been selling apartments even though the site plan has not been approved. It's been a my way or the OMB approach since the beginning. This does not inspire confidence that what finally gets built will even correspond to the drawings.

Maybe despite the questions above this is (or can be modified to be) a suitable design. But to say that density is good so more density is better, regardless of context and the details of the design is not enough.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2018-03-20 08:57:05

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Locke (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 10:02:29 in reply to Comment 122611

Just because the builder has 4 sites downtown doesn't mean they will be developed. Look at Vranich sat on property downtown for years and years and years. Also, it's hard to argue about accuracy when you suggest 32 instead of 30 stories when the proposal is for a 40 story tower. And in terms of a 43-storey building 60 seconds down Main St... is that speeding down Main St at 60km/h through a green wave of lights and what does that have to do with a building on 'this' site, raised up on the top of an ancient sandbar? As I said, I've no real problem with breaking the 30-story limit closer to King and James, but I do believe the cities thought of limiting to 30 stories for now is a good plan for overall development. Of course, this limit could be reviewed and revised in a decade or two if demand continues.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Locke (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 10:12:49 in reply to Comment 122616

Well said, kevlahan. In the video RobF shared above in the comments, you can hear Lamb talk about the amenities of the building creating a community. Maybe that sounds nice on the surface, but it doesn't take much critical thinking to understand he isn't talking about integrating into the community. The amenities and services in the building practically turn their back on their neighbours instead of interacting with them. I want development in Hamilton too, but we do not need to be so desperate now that we simply accept whatever design a developer offers -- we can and should expect to be partners and ask our planning staff to help ensure better outcomes.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Borrelli (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 10:27:36

Great points, Nicholas. Considering development charges downtown are already being massively discounted, I think the community has already made the compromise for intensification. Now it's up to developers to meet the City's requirements like tower separation, setbacks, etc.

Like Locke noted, bargaining with developers from the position of desperation is a losing proposition for the community. Hamilton's grown up now, and the goal is well-designed complete communities downtown, not some sideshow to build the highest tower in town.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 10:55:02 in reply to Comment 122617

my point of 32vs. 30 was to ask the question "how do we know for fact that the rest of downtown will sit empty for decades if a builder is given permission to build 32 instead of the magic number 30 we've come up with?"

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 10:56:29 in reply to Comment 122616

The city has rules around tall buildings and, in particular, that no building should be taller than the escarpment.

Just to clarify, this isn't accurate.

We have several buildings taller than the escarpment, and just approved a few more the last couple years. This new rule is being proposed as a nicer-sounding way for neighbourhood groups to NIMBY without just flat out NIMBYing.

It's never been on the books, and still isn't on the books as a rule in Hamilton.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 11:08:54

For anyone wondering if this 'views' of the escarpment thing is the actual reason for our new height limit, or just neighbourhood NIMBYism masked in a more worthy-sounding cause, here is the view towards the escarpment from the north side of King William St when only a 1-storey building was on the south side. Spectacular....

https://goo.gl/iSLLRg

Looks like 0 storeys should be our new height limit

Comment edited by JasonL on 2018-03-20 11:10:01

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Locke (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 11:11:39 in reply to Comment 122620

We of course know nothing of the future for a fact (just as we don't know the developer will build on the other sites they own or are looking at). What we do know is that there is a relationship between supply and demand. So, if a great deal of supply is added all at once, it is a reasonable expectation this will reduce demand to build housing elsewhere. After all, there are only so many people who want to/are expected to move to Hamilton in the next 5-10 years. 180 units of housing built here will lessen the demand to build those housing units elsewhere downtown.

More to the point, why is it not OK to ask for better design which integrates into the community better both physically (height) and socially (interaction opportunities)?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Locke (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 11:20:52 in reply to Comment 122622

Ummm, hardly the point of escarpment, bay views being preserved. But actually, thanks for making the point about needing to ensure design standards even at the street level. A blank wall with zero opportunities for social interaction at street level is terrible design. Vibrancy needs people coming and going at all hours of the day and if the Television City were located at this location it would miss out on the opportunity to engage the street because it doesn't address street life other than a front door for residents to enter and then turn their back on their neighbours. Street interaction requires the equivalent of a front-porch -- this design is a glass wall with the first residents on the 4th floor or higher.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 11:32:35 in reply to Comment 122624

have you looked at the detailed drawings? Wonderful retail space along Hunter and in the old mansion with outdoor patio space as well. Great sized retail units too....some of the nicest in the lower city.
Currently neighbours are blessed with the totally blank walls of CHCH and 2 parking lots. I'll take retail units and patio space anyday over that.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 11:33:58 in reply to Comment 122623

I've complained for years that Hamilton has dropped the ball on design and street interaction because we've been so busy saving the world from 25 storey buildings that we get reduced to 22. Height is irrelevant downtown. Street matters huge tho. Any trip to Vancouver or NYC makes this point abundantly clear.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 11:34:22 in reply to Comment 122623

We should ask him to build it 60 or 80 stories and have Hamilton's first landmark building. First Place doesn't quite cut it.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 20, 2018 at 11:40:56 in reply to Comment 122616

That is all well and good, but here's the thing: every point you made is just true of a 30 storey building as it is of a 40 storey building. The 30 storey limit is completely arbitrary, especially since we already have taller buildings. City planning is about trade-offs, and any project can be made to look bad if you only list the costs and ignore the benefits.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Locke (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 11:46:39 in reply to Comment 122625

The pictures I saw did not clearly show retail at ground -- if that's indeed true, that's a good thing and much better than the blank walls of CHCH as you say. I hope it's as good as you say and wonder if you'd suggest any improvements?

My impression is in part based on comments Lamb has made (i.e., in the video linked above) about the services for residents though -- including play space for children and co-working space -- all of which certainly sound resident only and not open to the public. The building will be a community is the focus, not part of the community or adding to the community.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By RobF (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 11:55:45 in reply to Comment 122621

Jason, there is nothing NIMBY about setting a height limit at 30 storeys. The maximum height in the current downtown secondary plan is 12 storeys, I think. That we have buildings above that is true, but not overly relevant.

We can argue about the merits of a height limit ... i understand the practical logic from a land-use planning perspective of setting height limits, but I'm not opposed to taller buildings, per se. My references to Vancouver are to suggest that their debate and rules have evolved over time to adjust to changing circumstances.

The problem is a practical/legal one ... our planning regime, especially under the old OMB land-use appeal framework, means that any prior (especially recent) decision is used by proponents to justify their application. I understand the logic that Brad Lamb is applying that hey we could build a really ugly 20 storey box that maximizes our density permissions, but we'd like to build something a bit more slender and stylish and need height to do it. If that is the debate then let's have it. But let's start with some honesty ... we don't know what his bottom line is, because we don't know what he paid for the land and we don't know how difficult it is for him to sell the units and finance the construction.

Height limits can be NIMBY if they preclude reasonable development from happening ... but that is quite different than this. He could build a stylish tower under the incoming DTSP framework. Just not two towers and not to the height he is proposing. He's a businessman. He's trying to get the best deal for Brad Lamb. Nothing wrong with that. I don't work for him. I want the best deal with us ... downtown residents and the City as whole. Just arguing that we should approve whatever a proponent pitches because that's intensification is a recipe for problems.

Comment edited by RobF on 2018-03-20 11:57:30

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Locke (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 12:33:54 in reply to Comment 122626

I agree and I spend about a quarter of my year in my hometown of Vancouver, so I'm very familiar with that city and the various limits they've place on height, preserving views and requirements for street interaction.

As you'll no doubt know, Vancouver's west end is full of mid-rise towers and the downtown itself topping out (with few exceptions) at 300 feet (30 stories). They now allow a few exceptions of 500 to 700 feet in specific locations meant as gateway landmarks.

We can't on the one-hand identify Vancouverism as a model and then ignore that the city has been restrictive of development. Part of Vancouver's success is that they have kept height restrictions in place and this has spread the development across downtown.

It's worth noting some Vancouver developers still complain they want to go taller and claim housing supply problems as a motivator. This despite a large supply of single story retail along main corridors outside of downtown which could be five- to eight-stories tall with residential above retail. Developers will always want to maximize their profit on a site and if you say the max is 50-stories, they'll ask for 70 while other locations remain under-utilized. (Those other corridors are often restricted to four- or five-story developments, so it's pretty clear why a builder would rather add ten-stories to an ongoing project rather than develop a new project limited to five stories.)

But back to Hamilton and Television City: At 40-stories, this location will dwarf all other buildings downtown until the first 50- to 60-story building on lower ground -- and I'd argue it's hardly a gateway location since it's not several blocks from the LRT line and located on secondary roads. At 30 stories it may well rise above all or all but one other building in the city.

Maybe that's OK, but I'm not yet convinced. My biggest fear is that there is too much fawning over this developer and this development. Ask tough questions and demand good answers. Density is good, but it's not the only requirement for urban life.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 13:07:14 in reply to Comment 122632

It should be noted that in this new downtown secondary plan the escarpment height limit is treated as the starting point for negotiations. It is not a hard limit. If the developer can make a good case for exceeding the limit he can. He/she can do that by including rental units, public space etc in the build.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 13:15:38 in reply to Comment 122631

on-site amenities as you've mentioned sound like they are for the residents, but the new public park in front of the mansion is open to anyone, as well as all retail units of course. I used to live in the rental tower across the street and wish there had been some further retail options walking distance in that area. There's one variety store.

I happen to really like the modern design and simple, sleek format of the buildings. I guess if I were to offer any suggestions based on some neighbour complaints I might suggest he swap the towers: put the 30 storey one on Caroline, and the 40-storey one on the parking lot to the west, which also happens to be several metres lower in elevation due to the slope on this site.

Maybe add mature street trees on all sidewalks too.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 13:20:13 in reply to Comment 122632

agree with all of this, except for the last paragraph. As a downtown resident, I really believe that more residents and more housing units is best for us, as well as him.
I def agree with your final sentence tho.... we need to demand great architecture, and even better street presence. I've complained for years about the awful sidewalk interaction in Hamilton's few new builds downtown. Part of the problem always seems to be that residents at public meetings are salivating over shaving off 5 or 10 storeys of height, and completely ignoring the street level.
I'm pleased to see us develop some street level standards.

I don't however, agree with the need for podiums and setbacks 100$% of the time. As fantastic as Vancouver is, let's be honest, eventually all the streets blend together with the identical podiums and identical glass colour.

I finally decided last fall when I was there that I much prefer the built form of Toronto. Lots of old brick, lots of modern skyscrapers, some great podiums, but a lot of different, interesting design. Vancouver was starting to feel to cookie cutter IMO

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 13:47:29 in reply to Comment 122630

I agree that we need to look at both costs and benefits: my post was intended to be the "costs" complement to your original article which highlighted the benefits (mostly just the benefits of high density), and didn't fully explore the possible costs. The general tone of the article was to dismiss all concerns as NIMBY arguments and claim that it is self-evident that the increased density outweighs any possible costs and is better than the alternatives.

30 storeys is arbitrary, but surely height is a relevant factor. Every city I know considers building height as a relevant criterion and increased height is often traded for improvements and amenities.

What evidence is there that the retail will actually open onto the street? I haven't seen any renderings showing business entrances onto the sidewalk or shops visible from the street.

I'm not saying this building should not be built, but there are legitimate questions and room for improvement. And there is also a legitimate debate to be had on whether very tall buildings are the main way Hamilton should try to increase density downtown. One of the early articles on RTH was entitled "High Quality Densification Without Towers":

https://raisethehammer.org/blog/362/high...

Have we now decided that densification must be achieved with towers?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 13:59:38 in reply to Comment 122636

I also grew up in Vancouver and echo the other comments about their approach.

What we should emulate from Vancouver is a strong planning department with high standards and consistent goals pursued over decades (from the Spaxman era of 1973-1989 to at least the early 2000s).

They had standards, but were flexible with developers in achieving their overall goals.

I would have preferred a more nuanced response from the planning department, but Lamb's attitude that he doesn't need to take the opinions of planners and residents into account since he can just go to the OMB does not lead to good results.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 14:11:19 in reply to Comment 122639

keep in mind, Lamb already waited past the provincially set date where a municipality must response to zoning applications. That's why his OMB filing charges the city with no response in the appointed time-frame. We can't sit here and pontificate about heights past the deadline and then get upset when the developer takes us to the OMB for wasting tons of time.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 14:18:42 in reply to Comment 122641

What modifications has Lamb offered to make to address the concerns of the planners, residents and design review panel? Has he even tried?

(The City also disputes the "no decision" basis of the appeal.)

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2018-03-20 14:21:26

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 20, 2018 at 16:04:29 in reply to Comment 122613

I don't understand this idea of protecting harbour views by forbidding towers taller than 30 storeys. It just seems entirely arbitrary, given the innumerable variations in angle and direction, depending on which direction you're looking.

This afternoon I did a sanity check and checked out our skyline from several vantage points along the brow: at the top of Wentworth Stairs, Sam Lawrence Park, and the Claremont Access near West 5th. The tallest is Landmark Place, which is 43 storeys in height and can be seen toward the right side of this photo:

Downtown skyline from Sam Lawrence Park

Of those locations, I believe only place where it would even be possible to see the Television City towers is from the side of the Claremont Access. Here is my best estimate as to how the towers would look from that vantage:

Downtown skyline from Claremont Access with Television City

Again, for comparison you can see Landmark Place on the right side of the panorama.

As for the comparison to Manhattan farther up this thread, the shortest of the 113 tallest buildings in that borough stands 183 metres tall, 58 metres higher than the taller tower in Lamb's proposal.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 17:31:15 in reply to Comment 122646

also, if anyone is paying attention they'll notice that the skinny slice of harbour behind downtown is:
1- barely visible and 2- blocked by anything over 12-14 stories.

East of the core is where the good water views are. But we are putting our height limit in perhaps the only place in the city where it literally doesn't matter and won't add any value.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By RobF (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 17:33:17 in reply to Comment 122636

Fair enough ... we can agree to disagree on how much and specifics. I agree on the problem of getting too formulaic if plans aren't applied creatively or allowed to evolve over time or vary as circumstances dictate.

Toronto tends to overbuild ... but yes, downtown Vancouver has gotten a bit cookie-cutter in some places. Across the water on the south-side of False Creek a different approach is being applied.

In Hamilton we have historic low- and mid-rise streetscapes downtown ... that will help us maintain a variegated built-form as taller buildings get built nearby on parking lots, etc.

And yes, we need more people downtown. I spoke at Planning Committee when the Kresge proposal was considered and said that.

Comment edited by RobF on 2018-03-20 18:27:08

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 17:34:29 in reply to Comment 122633

someone else here mentioned Vancouver topping out at 30ish storeys. That's not really accurate. Here is their list of true skyscrapers (buildings over 100 metres). Hamilton has 2 current buildings that I know of that are actual skyscrapers (over 100m): Landmark Place and Stelco Tower. A few others have been approved, but the new height limits we're placing downtown will see 95-97 metres be the tallest building allowed downtown, and not everywhere. Some spots downtown would have a limit as low as 80 metres.... insane for a so-called 'big city' looking to grow.

https://www.emporis.com/city/100997/vanc...

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 19:23:50

This short citylab article by Richard Florida is a thoughtful comment on the limits of a focus on high-rises in urban design:

https://www.citylab.com/design/2012/05/l...

And here is a quote relevant to the current discussion:

If the pendulum originally swung too far in the direction of sprawl over the past 50 years, the risk today is that it is swinging way too far back toward high-rise skyscrapers. "To oppose a high-rise building," he writes, "is to run the risk of being labeled a NIMBY, a dumb growth advocate, a Luddite — or worse. Buildings 20, 40, 60 even 100 stories tall are being proposed and built in low and mid-rise neighborhoods all over the world. All of these projects are justified with the explanation that if density is good, even more density is better."

and, a propos of cookie cutter Vancouver and the Toronto waterfront:

"Density does not always demand high-rises," notes McMahon. "Skyscrapers are a dime a dozen in today’s world. Once a low rise city or town succumbs to high-rise mania, many more towers will follow, until the city becomes a carbon-copy of every other city in a 'geography of nowhere.'"

We should be thinking carefully about how many high-rises are appropriate, where they should be, and what we want the overall urban environment to feel like.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2018-03-20 19:30:48

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 20, 2018 at 21:24:52 in reply to Comment 122643

as far as I know the only real change he has proposed is reducing 5 storeys off each building. I'm not too sure what other negotiations are happening tho.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 21, 2018 at 08:07:41 in reply to Comment 122661

The project has 618 units over 70 storeys, so removing ten stories means eliminating roughly 88 units.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By JasonL (registered) | Posted March 21, 2018 at 09:18:53 in reply to Comment 122665

which slightly drives up the cost per unit, and probably removes some of the multi-bedroom units.
Then, all the people who pushed for the reduction can keep complaining about high cost of new units and lack of multi-bedroom units.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Locke (registered) | Posted March 21, 2018 at 09:40:15 in reply to Comment 122653

Jason, in the link you provide with examples of "skyscrapers" in Vancouver, you'll note: * The majority of these 64, completed, under construction, planned and unbuilt (vision or cancelled) towers are less than 40 storeys * Of the 14 completed towers 40-storeys or taller, only one was built before 2009 when the height restrictions were increased.

Vancouver used to have lower limits (and still has limits that protect certain views, such as the approach to city hall). Developers in Vancouver complain that city restricts too many buildings to 300ft (90m) when they should be 150m (500ft). The city still have quite restrictive limits and have specifically, pre-emptively, created locations for 5 exemptions when Brent Toderian was chief planner. But as Toderian notes, the height exception would likely fall far short of even 700 feet tall.

The expectation is that there will be buildings which exceed the height limit in Vancouver. I'd expect in time Hamilton would follow a similar path, allow occasional height exceptions and eventually raise the height limit again.

The reality is, no matter what limit you put in place, developers always want to push higher. If they want to go higher, the onus is really on them to prove why they should be exempted.

To understand where I get my understanding of 30ish-storey limits in Vancouver, please see the article, supplied earlier by RobF for a sense of how height is worked with there. https://biv.com/article/2016/01/vancouve...

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds