The City plans to sell part of Woolverton Park in Corktown neighbourhood to a developer planning to build a 70 unit property next door. What is the right balance between intensification and protection of park land?
By Trey Shaughnessy
Published June 10, 2011
Parks have their place in an urban area. They are public spaces owned by the City, and they provide more than just a public place for children to slide down plastic slides. They can also host community gatherings, as well provide respite for parents to let their children 'loose' for an hour.
These benefits are especially important to families living in high-rise buildings. Proximity to a community park is a good selling feature of nearby buildings.
The City of Hamilton plans to sell part of a Corktown park [PDF link] to a developer after declaring it "surplus".
The park at 90 Charlton Avenue East is called Woolverton Park, named after Frances Woolverton - "the mother of Hamilton's Playgrounds". It features a wading pool, a play structure that was replaced two years ago, and a multi-purpose court.
According to the Corktown Neighbourhood Association:
This little park is heavily utilized by the residents of the high rise buildings in the Charlton Avenue area of our neighbourhood who would ordinarily have no recreational areas which are specific to children's play.
The City plans to sell part of the park to 852984 Ontario Inc. (Sam Disanto), who owns the neighbouring property at 121 St. Joseph's Drive. In 2009, a 15 unit building on that property was demolished after it had been declared unsafe when a retaining wall collapsed into the park in 2007.
The developer wants to build a new nine-storey, 70-unit building with an underground parking lot, but needs part of Woolverton Park to do it. According to staff [PDF link], the land in question is "part of an embankment, and is not usable park space."
At an April 2011 Planning Committee meeting, the Committee asked staff to "review the options of reinvesting all or part of the money the City received for the sale of the park, into Woolverton Park."
Local residents to made delegations to the meeting raised concerns about lack of parking, increased congestion, impact on and access to the park, access for DARTS, noise and disruption during construction, and possible damage to the park during construction.
Public parks and spaces are indeed needed, but so is density. How much density is too much? How much public space in a residential area is needed to create a critical mass for a healthy, walkable, livable community?
Should we "Rook to Queen Bishop 4" and densify - spurring local retail and F&B - at the expense and diminishing a local park? Or should we "King and Rook", and force a draw by keeping the entire current well-used parkette for area high-rise families?
This is not a huge building, given that our third tallest skyscraper, the Olympia at 33 floors, is next door. However, to accommodate the required parking, the developer is forced to purchase part of a city-owned park to make room for a three-storey parkade.
Did we forget about the Province's Places to Grow Act? Hamilton is supposed to increase our population density, but we have done very little to meet the requisite recommendations passed six years ago by Queen's Park.
An increase in our population density will help expedite all-day-GO transit, more local public transit, LRT, help with local retail/food and beverage, and also add to assessment on existing infrastructure.
On the other hand, the diminishment of a well-used park may reduce the livability of the existing neighourhood. So what should we do?
with files from Ryan McGreal
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