Sprawl

Consultant Report: Up is Down

By Jason Leach
Published September 28, 2009

I get sick and tired of the bidness in this city. It's not the 1950s anymore, people! Regular people like us can read these 'consultant' reports for ourselves.

If you're going to continue to use pre-planned 'research' that 'independent' consultants are supposed to spit out, please just save us the tax money and lie to us for free.

What's next? Is a city consultant going to tell us that downtown Hamilton is 100 percent occupied and is commanding the second highest real estate values in the country after Toronto?

If only there was a way to get info like this to the masses who still rely on old media who are also part of the whole bidness scam themselves.

Here's the relevant section in the CATCH report:

[T]he Hemson study [into the size of the airport employment growth district] continues to argue that 10 percent of industrial areas will never be occupied and that amount should be added to land need calculations, and that another 20 percent needs to be added for roads and other services - both positions that have been challenged by provincial officials.

Other aspects of the Hemson calculations may be controversial in other ways. In the 2006 study, for example, the consulting company determined that the North Glanbrook industrial business park was more than 80 percent empty. In the most recent study, it claims the area is now more than half full even though no new development has occurred there in the interim.

The new study also reduces the amount of land that may be available for redevelopment in the older industrial areas along the harbour. Hemson says the Bayfront industrial area is "99% occupied" and the neighbouring East Hamilton area is "97% occupied".

"Contrary to popular perception, the city's industrial areas are nearly 100% occupied," says the report. "Only 21 net vacant hectares are available for development [there]."

Another business park described by Hemson as "99% occupied" is the west Hamilton industrial area that includes the new McMaster Innovation Park on Longwood Road. The new study also reduces the total area of the city's six greenfield business parks by over 230 hectares from the numbers Hemson used in 2006.

That's explained as: "A refinement of the boundaries of some employment areas to better reflect the land use designations in the approved and in-force local official plans, including the removal of lands planned exclusively for airport uses in the Airport Business Park, as well as lands approved for commercial uses in some of the city's business parks and industrial areas."

The latter appears to refer primarily to the June 2008 council decision to overrule their staff and convert four industrial properties to big box retail, including Wal-Mart centred developments on Centennial Parkway in east Hamilton and on Fifty Road in Winona.

The overall effect of the updated calculations is that a 40 percent decline in expected new jobs has only translated into a 27 percent drop in the proposed size of the first stage of the aerotropolis.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted September 28, 2009 at 11:42:44

I love how there is so much industrial land that we might as well build a power centre on some of it switches to there being no industrial land available so expand Aerotropolis. Is anyone aware if it is the same consultants being used in both cases. That would be the icing on the cake.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 28, 2009 at 12:22:39

I still can't get over the statement that our entire NE industrial area is 100% occupied. My goodness, they must think we are complete and utter idiots.

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By Steeltown (registered) | Posted September 28, 2009 at 14:36:17

I would say majority of the land is owned by someone but isn't be used. I would probably guess a majority of the un-used land that owned is from the Hamilton Port Authority. They bought a huge lot of land from Stelco recently.

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 28, 2009 at 15:01:51

I haven't read the report yet, but I would surmise that the surprising rates for the North and East ends stem from a very creative interpretation of the term "occupancy".

This city uses consultants' reports in the same way that a party to litigation uses experts' reports - not to learn or teach anything, but rather to advance and justify a foregone conclusion. It should be kept in mind that consultants are not really professionals bound by a regulatory body or strict codes of ethics and conduct but rather hired guns who will spout out whatever rubbish their clients want to hear.

I would list overreliance on consultants as one of the major factors compromising the integrity of democracy in this town.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 28, 2009 at 15:37:26

My principal complaint with the city's economic planning process has been that the consultants frame their reports by assuming a set of static baseline conditions, when the purpose of economic planning is to project and, where possible, transform the conditions under which individuals and firms make economic choices over the planning horizon.

Some conditions, like the future price of oil, are outside the city's control. The best the city can do is try to get good information on what trends are likely and factor that into its economic strategy.

(Of course, the city did precisely that with Richard Gilbert's "Hamilton: The Electric City" study, but refuses to take that study into consideration in its planning process.)

Other conditions, like the balance of tax, regulatory, incentive and institutional programs for business investment, are far more extensively under the city's control and should be the main targets of an economic strategy.

Instead, the consultant assumes static global economic indicators (oil price, national growth rate, etc.) and assumes further that the city's own balance of incentives won't change.

Under that static and despairing scenario, the consultant obligingly concludes that the city's best economic hope lies in a pattern consisting mainly of warehousing and logistics on new greenfield developments around the airport.

As a Hemson representative infamously stated to council a couple of years ago: "Employment lands is [sic] what occurs in business parks."

http://raisethehammer.org/article/511

With that kind of grim determinism at play, it's impossible to derive any policy recommendation aside from the depressing status quo.

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