On Wednesday evening, 25 to 30 residents of the Strathcona neighbourhood gathered to hear about the proposed development of the Shoppers Drug Mart location at the North East corner of King and Dundurn.
By Jason Allen
Published March 21, 2014
On Wednesday evening, 25 to 30 residents of the Strathcona neighbourhood gathered to hear about the proposed development of the Shoppers Drug Mart location at the North East corner of King and Dundurn. Councillor Brian McHattie kicked off the evening by introducing Matt Johnstone and IBI Group, the design contractors for Shoppers, who gave a short summary of the development.
Proposed new Shoppers Drug Mart on King at Dundurn
In August of 2013, the initial design was submitted for an 8000+ sq. ft. Shoppers, with an additional four-storey, 27-unit apartment building to be located behind the Shoppers, facing onto Head Street to the North. There was considerable neighbourhood concern over the plan.
The concerns raised sent IBI back to the drawing board, but the delays caused by the redesign meant that the redevelopment would now be restricted by the new Strathcona secondary plan, which was about to be approved by council.
As a result, IBI chose to take the development proposal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) under Shoppers Drug Mart's direction. The OMB appeal addresses provisions in four different planning and zoning regulations, and was launched once the provincially mandated time limit for the city to respond to the original rezoning request had expired.
Although a developer is not required to appeal to the OMB once this deadline expires, and indeed many recent development proposals in Ward 1 in the past few years have not done so, Shoppers chose to appeal immediately.
Johnstone explained that the entire design process had been constrained by the existing long-term, renewable lease held by the Tim Hortons drive through, which gave them guaranteed street level visibility from King.
Further compounding the design was the no-truck restriction on Dundurn, requiring delivery vehicles for the enlarged Shoppers to enter from King, unload, and then turn around to exit back onto King.
With all of these restrictions in place, IBI presented the proposal that is now before the OMB. Unfortunately, due to the nature of OMB appeals, it meant that the proposal being presented to residents on Monday night was essentially a take it or leave it proposition, with Johnstone stating on several occasions that the only alternative to IBI's design was to leave the property as it is now.
Overhead site plan
The design itself is for the Tim Hortons to move to the front of the lot, just behind the popular bus stop on King and Dundurn. It would be surrounded by a small landscaped area with possible benches and trees to improve the streetscape.
The drive-through would be behind it, with vehicles still entering from King, and winding up past the Shoppers entrance to begin queueing for their coffees.
Dominating the plan is the 62-vehicle parking lot that would be at the front of the 17,000 sq. ft. two-storey Shoppers facing onto King Street. The driveway from King would be moved further east, and the driveway onto Dundurn moved further North, which would line up directly with Hunt Street on the other side.
The Shoppers itself would have a mezzanine level for office space for the store along with storage. The loading dock would be located at the front of the store on the East side of the building, due to the no-truck restriction on Dundurn, a feature that was described as highly unusual.
At the back of the property would be eight townhouses facing on to Head Street, with garages at ground level, and a second and third floor living space.
Townhouse condos on Head Street
Unusual for this arrangement, and possibly unique to Hamilton, would be the presence of a "backyard amenity," a deck or patio, that would be accessed from the second floor of the townhouses and located on the roof of the Shoppers. As such, the townhouses would be condominiums, and would share a rear wall with the retail store.
After the initial presentation, various residents spoke. Strathcona Community Council executive member Jennifer Dawson described her frustration at the process, feeling that community voices had been shut out by Shoppers appeal to the OMB.
She reminded the audience that the Strathcona Secondary plan had come about after years of consultation with residents.
At this point, McHattie and Edward John from planning stepped in to say that they were continuing to work with IBI on the fine details of the plan, in the hopes that minor improvements could be agreed upon.
Dawson also expressed reservations about the driveway on Dundurn aligning with Hunt Street. Her concern, echoed by many there, was that Tim Hortons customers would simply race across Dundurn and down Hunt. This increased traffic would then access Hwy 403 at Breadalbane and King, the location of a two-way bike lane that has already seen a number of serious accidents.
Some residents also expressed their disapproval of the modern look and feel of the town homes in a neighbourhood that dates from the late 1800s.
Others asked questions about increased traffic on residential streets such as Strathcona Avenue and New Street as shoppers tried to navigate their way from the Dundurn Fortinos back to Shoppers to complete their errands.
While many in attendance had concerns, several residents on Head Street expressed support for the Shoppers design itself, and congratulated IBI on the work they had done to bring the design closer to what the neighbourhood would have wanted.
Several residents then suggested ideas on how to improve the development, prompting Johnstone to repeat again that because the proposal was before the OMB, not much was possible in the way of changes to the design.
Closing up the meeting, Councillor McHattie asked for feedback on the design to be emailed either to him, or to the Strathcona Community Council. He requested specific feedback that he could consider in deciding whether or not to ask the city to oppose or support the design at the OMB.
Edward John from planning also explained that only residents who had already written to the city with concerns over the development would be able to request participant status for the pre-hearing Aril 7. Any community members who had expressed concerns to the city, in writing, in the past were welcome to show up on the 7 and request to be part of the process.
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