Much of the opposition to this project has centred around fear and uncertainty about what the plan actually proposes.
By Jason Leach
Published March 24, 2018
Lost in all the back-and-forth during last week's Planning Committee vote on Brad Lamb's Television City housing project are a few details worth clarifying as the conversation continues in the days ahead.
Conflicting information regarding certain design aspects has been floated online during the past week. We dove into some of the numbers with the hopes of clarifying what exactly is being proposed, and how a compromise between Mr. Lamb and the city could end up shaking out.
Some of the opposition to this project has centred around the idea that ground floor retail is hidden away in an obscure ground floor space, which would have a detrimental affect on the streetscape and overall vibe from the sidewalks that front onto the buildings.
However, a review of the architectural plans [PDF] should set these fears to rest.
Television City architectural plans, ground floor
Four retail spaces are proposed as part of the ground floor of this entire complex. Two are in the western tower facing Hunter Street. One is in the east tower at the corner of Hunter and Caroline. The last one looks to occupy a new two-storey addition along the rear of the preserved Pinehurst Mansion.
Each retail space ranges from 150-320 square metres (1,615-3,444 square feet).
Of particular note is the ceiling height and window sizes of these units, along with the ground floor lobby areas. The ceilings are seven metres high (23 feet), with ground-to-ceiling windows facing Hunter and Caroline Streets.
Not only are these retail units not hidden or difficult to see, they will be bright, modern and prominent, and will activate this entire corner which has been a pedestrian dead zone since the CHCH studio was built.
For comparison sake and to help visualize these retail spaces, the AGH pavilion on the south side of the Art Gallery has 18 foot high ceilings.
Art Gallery of Hamilton pavillion (Image Credit: Art Gallery of Hamilton)
These retail units will be spacious, bright and possibly nicer than any in the entire lower city. And with the buildings being set back from the sidewalks, there is ample space for patios, benches and trees.
As one final point of comparison, the ceiling height of these retail units perfectly matches the top of the 2nd storey windows of the Pinehurst Mansion. (see A.13 - North Elevation)
Looking at the height of the mansion from the sidewalk to the top of the second floor windows gives a great idea of the prominence, height and visual appeal these new retail and lobby spaces will have on the streets around this complex.
Pinehurst Mansion (RTH file photo)
Many different ideas and numbers have been floated as to what height should be allowed on this site. The city is planning to examine the possibility of passing a new bylaw that would forbid any buildings in the immediate downtown core from being taller than the Niagara Escarpment.
This idea has never been on the books before, which is why we have had buildings taller than the escarpment since the mid 1970s. One wonders if we would be wiser to implement such a restriction south of Young/Robinson Street so as to protect views of the downtown core from the Mountain Brow, but at the moment the new plan will only address properties between Hunter and Cannon.
The city's new height plan proposes to have builders line up their downtown property with the top of the escarpment to their south.
In this case, that roughly brings us to the top of James Mountain Road. Various elevation mapping devices were used to come up with an accurate elevation. The Google Earth data for 115 Claremont Drive has an elevation of 197 metres. This is the location of the first home overlooking downtown when one ascends James Mountain Road.
Online elevation mapping shows an elevation of 196 metres at this site, so we know we're in the ballpark.
This provides Mr. Lamb with the allowable height under the proposed new escarpment height guidelines. Using 196 metres as the escarpment height, this would allow for an 87 metre building on the site of the west tower, while a slightly shorter 84 metre building would be allowed on the site of the east building, due to the slightly higher elevation toward Caroline Street.
The architectural drawings for Television City show a height of 85.45 metres at the 29th floor of these buildings. The 28th floor has a height of 82.50 metres.
Television City architectural plans, north elevation A13
Using the city's own calculation formula, Mr. Lamb is not far off from satisfying their future goal of restricting building heights.
One wonders if negotiations will centre around a few key elements:
1. The long distance between this site and the Niagara Escarpment. It is 1.2 km from the Television City site to the edge of the escarpment. Compare that to the Olympia Tower on Charlton Avenue, which is only 400 metres from the edge of the escarpment.
The further one gets from the escarpment, the less impact height will have on views.
Downtown Hamilton skyline view from Claremont Access, Television City location highlighted in red (RTH file photo)
2. Preservation of the Pinehurst Mansion. Mr. Lamb is doing something rarely seen in recent decades in Hamilton: offering to preserve a historic home instead of demolishing it to provide more development land.
Most Hamiltonians would love and appreciate a final product on this site that involves adaptive reuse of the mansion, as well as the wonderfully designed public park being proposed for the current parking lot in front of Pinehurst.
The Durand neighbourhood suffers from a lack of public gathering space and tree-shaded sitting plazas. This civic amenity should be rewarded with some dialogue and leeway on the part of local neighbours, and city staff.
3. Future development plans from Mr. Lamb. He has made it clear that he sees great opportunity to develop quality urban housing in Hamilton, and most folks agree this is long overdue. A good working relationship between a developer and city hall is always desired by both parties.
I suspect Mr. Lamb would prefer to avoid the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in order to help lay the groundwork with a city administration he is going to be dealing with a lot in upcoming years.
One possible compromise on the issue that seems most important to neighbours - height - could be to suggest a swapping of the towers.
Perhaps Mr. Lamb could build a 35-storey building on the western site where our above numbers show roughly 29 storeys matching the escarpment height. 35 storeys would come in at 103 metres, the identical height of the new building currently under construction two blocks north at Caroline and George Street. Then he could build a 28-storey building on the eastern portion of the block, matching the escarpment height exactly.
One thing is certain. Hamilton's downtown is on the verge of seeing much-needed investment and growth. Many Hamiltonians have waited decades for this. Weighing all the pros, cons and civic amenities in this project should make it rather easy for City Hall and Brad Lamb to agree on a fantastic development that will enhance this immediate neighbourhood, as well as the broader Hamilton community.
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