Special Report: Aerotropolis

Airport Development a Backdoor for More Sprawl

The City's Airport Economic Growth District is a red herring, an excuse to expand the urban boundary so home builders can squeeze a little more money out of sprawl.

By Ryan McGreal
Published October 29, 2012

this article has been updated

When the City of Hamilton undertook its Growth Related Integrated Development Strategy (GRIDS) planning exercise in 2005, all six development proposals included a 3,000 acre urban boundary expansion around the airport - even though the expansion violated seven of the nine GRIDS Directions.

The boundary expansion was called "Aerotropolis" after a model by John Kasarda, an economics professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. According to Kasarda, eighteenth century cities grew around shipping ports, nineteenth century cities grew around rail nodes, and twentieth century cities grew around highways.

He believes twenty-first century cities will grow around airports, as people demand the speed, flexibility, and convenience that only air transport can provide. In the aerotropolis economy, the three As ("accessibility, accessibility, accessibility") replace the three Ls ("location, location, location"), as high-tech companies leverage proximity to the airport.

It sounds impressive, and Kasarda's description is nuanced - a dense, diverse, well-planned, and even aesthetically pleasing mix of complementary facilities and amenities. However, the city's plan, now called the Airport Employment Growth District (AEGD), doesn't do this.

Low Value Land Use

Instead, we get a collection of large, low-density, single-use lots used mainly for warehousing and logistics (two-thirds of the total land) with a little bit of high-tech manufacturing and some coffee shops, gas stations and strip plazas.

AEGD Proposed Land Use
AEGD Proposed Land Use

A large part of the area is dedicated to so-called prestige business uses, which include: building and lumber supply, motor vehicle sales and service, convention centres, couriers, equipment and machinery sales and service, hotels, administrative offices, laboratories, union halls, manufacturing, offices, private power generation, repair services, research and development, surveying and planning, trade schools, skilled trade shops, transport terminals, transportation depots, and warehouses. Yes, according to the city, warehousing and transportation qualify as "prestige business".

Even that proposed land use is optimistic. A number of land owners have appealed the city's plan to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), either because they want their land rezoned for residential development or they want their land added to the AEGD area and rezoned for residential development.

While City planners and councillors insist we need thousands of acres of highway-accessible industrial employment land, the fact is that we have spent the past several years caving into developer pressure and rezoning existing highway-accessible industrial employment lands for residential and big box commercial use.

It's About Sprawl

The most likely result if the AEGD goes ahead is that taxpayers will shell out hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure costs and then turn the land over to home builders as a way of recouping some of that money.

After decades of unsustainable suburban expansion, Hamilton remains committed to a policy of ongoing sprawl, and the AEGD is part of that policy. Our density targets just barely meet the absolute minimum under the Provincial Places to Grow mandate, and most of the intensification is back-filled into the latter part of the 2015-2031 period.

In 2009, councillors rejected a proposal by Councillor Brian McHattie to increase the city's downtown density target from 250 people+jobs per hectare to 400. In responding to the request, city planner Bill Janssen came out and admitted that a higher density target would threaten the city's plans to expand the urban boundary:

The one concern that we have with increasing, or having a target in the plan that we don't know we can achieve, it may impact what other development can be undertaken, particularly in greenfield developments.

Even worse, the City's official position is that we have hardly any available brownfield lands in the existing built area. A study by Hemson Consulting that was presented to Council in 2007 concluded that there weren't any brownfield opportunities to speak of and that the city's only economic development option was to focus on warehousing and logistics around the airport.

It was so one-sided that even Council noticed, and they directed staff to come back with a more realistic assessment of the city's brownfields.

A follow-up study, also by Hemson, redefined the city's approximately 1,400 brownfield properties almost entirely out of existence, concluding that only two percent of the old industrial area is available for redevelopment - 91 sites totaling less than 75 acres. Despite its mandate, the report excluded underutilized lands like parking lots, scrapyards, and empty warehouses.

Putting the Land First

Richard Gilbert said the following to Council when presenting the Peak Oil report he prepared for the City in 2006:

There is a certain amount of thinking [in Hamilton] of putting the land first and then wondering how to fill the land with jobs. What I'm proposing is an alternative way of going about it, which is figuring out what you want to do and then after you've defined it a bit, what the lands are for that particular thing.

Any business case for airport-oriented development evaporated with the end of cheap fossil fuel energy. The only economically sustainable way for Hamilton to move forward is to make much more effective use of its existing land, already serviced by municipal infrastructure and currently under-performing.

AEGD is a red herring, an excuse to expand the urban boundary so home builders can squeeze a little more money out of sprawl.

It's an economic dead-end that will preclude sound investments in increasing the economic productivity of the city we already have.

This was first published on The Hamiltonian as part of a Perspectives Virtual Panel on the AEGD.

Update: originally, this article incorrectly stated that AEGD stands for Airport Economic Growth District. It's actually Airport Employment Growth District. You can jump to the changed paragraph.

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 wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By hshields (registered) - website | Posted October 29, 2012 at 13:26:59

Thanks for this article Ryan. One additional question regarding accessibility. The current AEGD is silent on the preferred route for additional road infrastructure but, just from looking at the map, doesn't this plan fit very well with a proposed Mid-Peninusal highway?

I know, I know - everyone is against it. But, as the Spectator has said, it is the highway that won't die.

Given this last gasp at urbanism, doesn't this AEGD plan also spell the last gasp for another major highway to connect Niagara to Hamilton's airport to the rest of Southern Ontario?

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By hammerbooster (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2012 at 13:27:42

Is there anyone who believes any different? This is gift wrapped for the sprawl developers.

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By J (registered) | Posted October 29, 2012 at 15:55:45 in reply to Comment 82398

yeah - and the AEGD is also premised on being good for the economy - since it will abide by planning instruments that prohibit sprawl along the route - instead, wink wink, the mid-pen is about connecting Ontario to burgeoning southern US markets.

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By Shea (anonymous) | Posted October 29, 2012 at 16:00:35

Ryan and readers,
When CATCH was researching and writing about aerotropolis (aerofraudolis in my parlance) in Spring and Summer of 2005, I came across this interview with John Kasarda that may be of interest here. (See e.g. CATCH article of June 6, 2005, Aerotropolis seen as economic saviour for Hamilton--http://www.hamiltoncatch.org/archives/articles/art_0506/art_050606aerotropolis.htm)

DIA touted as development anchor
Professor foresees vast 'aerotropolis' springing up around airfield

[NOTE: The link to this article no longer works.
The Rocky Mountain News ceased publication as of Feb. 27, 2009. See their lament still available at http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2009/feb/27/goodbye-colorado/
"To have reached this day, the final edition of the Rocky Mountain News, just 55 days shy of its 150th birthday is painful."

Alev b'sholom. And sorry for any copyright problems, Rocky Mtn News & RTH.]
By Chris Walsh, Rocky Mountain News
July 16, 2005
EXCERPT: News: Do people really want to work, live and shop near the roar of airplanes?
Kasarda: Yes. Airport areas are seeing the fastest growth nationwide. They are seeing very rapid urban development in population and jobs. The DIA area is growing at twice the rate of the metro area. People are moving there because airports themselves employ a lot of people. Jobs are developing all around them, and then residential development is occurring to house those people, which is further driving population growth.

Move over, downtown Denver.
Your neighbor to the east just might outgrow you.

Denver International Airport [DIA] is poised to become the anchor of a thriving business and residential hub that one day could rival downtown in population and employment.
At least according to John D. Kasarda, a director and management professor at the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's business school.

Kasarda thinks some airports will become as important to city development as highways, railroads and seaports were in the past.
With its open tracts of land providing ample room for development, DIA could serve as the poster child for the concept of an "aerotropolis," said Kasarda, who has researched and written about airport-centered development for years.

The DIA Partnership, an organization that promotes economic development for the area surrounding the airport, has jumped behind the notion, dubbing the area "aeropolitan."
The region - which includes the Lowry and Fitzsimons redevelopment sites - generates $15 billion a year, a number the partnership expects to grow to $44 billion annually by 2015. More than $17 billion in public and private projects are under development, and roughly 30 percent of the metro area's job growth will occur in the region, the partnership estimates.

Kasarda, who will speak at a DIA Partnership meeting Tuesday morning, talked to the Rocky Mountain News about the emerging trend of airport development and how DIA could lead the way.

News: What will you talk about Tuesday?
Kasarda: I'm going to give the big picture of the way in which airports are driving business competitiveness and urban development. Then I'll discuss how airports themselves are no longer airports, how they've really changed to become complex multifunctional enterprises attracting all types of business and industry. I'll talk about what's going on with development outside the airport fence, and then I'll show specific examples of what it looks like in other parts of the world and draw conclusions.

News: What exactly is an aerotropolis?
Kasarda: It is the immediate airport area and the integrated zones that radiate out 25 to 30 miles from it. You have an airport that is the core, and just like the suburban rings around a major city, you have strings and clusters and various types of connected businesses ranging from time-sensitive manufacturing and distribution to hotel and entertainment.

News: What benefits does it create?
Kasarda: If you have an airport and you have developed the property adjacent to it, you have major cross-subsidies and revenue flows. That can help keep expenses for airlines down. It not only generates more passengers and cargo but also more revenues for airlines to meet future operational and infrastructure expansion needs.

News: Airports have been around for decades. Why is the idea of an airport-centric city a new idea?
Kasarda: In the past this industry was not nearly as dependent on speed and agility. The types of businesses and industry located around an airport mostly had nothing to do with an airport. Before, highways and trucks drove urban development. Now, airports are helping to shape it, too.
News: Where is this concept taking off?

Kasarda: Amsterdam is a very good case in point, as you see various types of development 10, 15, 20 kilometers from the airport. Hong Kong is developing a major aerotropolis . . . as is Bangkok. In the U.S., Dallas-Fort Worth is a very good example of an emerging aerotropolis, as is Las Vegas, Detroit and O'Hare in Chicago.

News: Why is DIA a good candidate for this type of development?
Kasarda: It was criticized as being too far removed from everything, but that turns out to be an asset. There's a tremendous amount of space outside the airport that puts Denver in a very unique position to be the first truly planned aerotropolis in the nation.

News: Do people really want to work, live and shop near the roar of airplanes?
Kasarda: Yes. Airport areas are seeing the fastest growth nationwide. They are seeing very rapid urban development in population and jobs. The DIA area is growing at twice the rate of the metro area. People are moving there because airports themselves employ a lot of people. Jobs are developing all around them, and then residential development is occurring to house those people, which is further driving population growth.

News: What are the challenges involved?
Kasarda: These areas are made up of many different jurisdictions that tend to plan independently of each other. That's probably the biggest challenge.
News: What does this mean for the traditional downtown areas?
Kasarda: A healthy airport helps the downtown. Many corporations want to locate downtown but won't unless the airport is strong.

walshc@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-2744
Copyright 2005, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved. //

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By j (registered) | Posted October 29, 2012 at 16:01:31

I'd just say in regard to underutilized brownfields, I'm not sure it's as easy as calling it number fudging. I think the lands are inaccessible because they're artificially cheap to hold - but they're still inaccessible. The answer should be much higher property taxes on industrial acreage and surface lots, no exemptions. But maybe the planners have a mechanism for accounting for underutilized lands in a way that would not be totally arbitrary.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 29, 2012 at 22:51:38

I have to agree with this article. There are many better uses for city money the subsidizing this kind of sprawl. I hope the province steps in and says no. They need to tell the city "Tough, deal with your existing urban boundary". Unless this is being entirely being financed by the private sector and the city is charging a massive development fees, I can't support this.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2012-10-29 22:52:34

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By Still Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted October 30, 2012 at 02:08:46

This was my comment when the Hamiltonian originally broadcast this (I could've offered more)...

The New York Times revealed where businesses like those envisioned for the Aerotropolis are headed months ago... towards automated facilities with very little labour (https://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/business/new-wave-of-adept-robots-is-changing-global-industry.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0). Fools at the helm.

It really is time to get some elected representatives who believe in the TRUE potential that Hamilton has. Sadly, that means convincing/educating the crew who continue to elect the current crop.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 30, 2012 at 09:34:35

there weren't any brownfield opportunities to speak of...

Stelco is being sold bit by bit... we should be buying every chunk of it that comes on the market.

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By ThisIsOurHamilton (registered) - website | Posted October 30, 2012 at 10:11:54 in reply to Comment 82413

Sadly, that means convincing/educating the crew who continue to elect the current crop.

Why 'sadly'?

Sadly because this appears to be a task that nobody in the city wants to take on? That instead, they'd prefer the notion of either a) praying for the incumbent to 'see the light', or b) praying for a 'saviour candidate? (Who will almost assuredly require a), above.)

I can't imagine a more uplifting prospect than 'convincing/educating the crew' (meaning in actuality, not just those of the 40% who actually cast ballots, the 60% of these who do so not as a result of having formed a qualified opinion, but the remaining 60% of all eligible voters who choose not to vote, period). Why?

Because the very process of doing this 'convincing/educating' is neighbourhood- and community- and ward- and city-building. Because in the dialogue and discussion and 'esplainin' that would result were the 'convincing/educating' to unfold would involve increased awareness, investment and participation.

To paraphrase Sy Syms:

"An educated resident is our best citizen."

Comment edited by ThisIsOurHamilton on 2012-10-30 10:12:54

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By rednic (registered) | Posted October 30, 2012 at 10:25:48

I got a question... Who all owns all that land up by the airport ? Is he in the senate ?

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By Today (anonymous) | Posted October 30, 2012 at 12:32:13

No question it would be interesting to know exactly how much clout new home builders have in these sorts of issues involving sprawl development that on the surface, may not seem residentially based all that much.

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By Dane (registered) | Posted October 30, 2012 at 17:56:00 in reply to Comment 82404

I read those consultant reports and if I remember correctly Hemson is instructed by Staff how to view the Brownfields. Its like one little line at the beginning but with that in hand, they can proceed with these crazy conclusions.

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By Dane (registered) | Posted October 30, 2012 at 18:04:18

I think these videos are the direction we should go in. It demonstrates cost and effect, visually. In Hamilton, the point seems to made in a way that is beyond who has the better articulated argument and more about how well you get your messaging out there. The average Hamiltonian probably doesn't even know about this and likely doesn't care. So how is the message positioned in a way that can get attention and be convincing.

Part 1




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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted October 30, 2012 at 22:02:15 in reply to Comment 82418

This comment is a great insight and a bluntly stated truth, why downvotes? Just my humble opinion.

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By doer (anonymous) | Posted October 30, 2012 at 22:54:20 in reply to Comment 82444

Because many of the actual "doers" in this city (and on this website) have learned that Adrian's modus operandi is to continually tell people how they are going about it wrong - whether "it" is discussing issues, throwing around ideas, organizing meetings, or even actually - you know - DOING THINGS.

Yet we've never seen him do anything himself. It gets tiring being told over and over that we don't quite understand the "real answer", which he implies he has exclusive knowledge of. But he doesn't want to tell us what it is until we discover it for ourselves.

In other words, he cried wolf so many times that his better comments don't get proper consideration because everyone is wary that it's an invitation to another bitch-slap three comments in.

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By ThisIsOurHamilton (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2012 at 06:12:33 in reply to Comment 82446

God, where do I begin?

The 'doers'.

Well, if they're 'doers', then this implies a certain level of capability and competency. So frankly, what I say shouldn't matter. You'd think. Really; if you're such a 'doer', filled with resolve and determination and your own sense of purpose, what possible value should you be attaching to someone who annoys you so much? Secondly, there's an assumption in that label, one of perspicacity. You know, 'understanding'. And this means that they've actually spent time reading what I've produced over the past two years beyond my comments here to understand the entirety of my beliefs. Finally, yes I do believe many of the methods continually marched out are 'wrong'. They don't work. The evidence is right in front of us as we continue to prove Einstein's definition of 'insanity'. Too blunt for you? Tough.

'We've never seen him do anything himself.'

Right. Putting the regular stream of Spec op-eds over the past year aside... An initial site ('My Stoney Creek') that focused on civic matters and applied solutions. 'Town Halls Hamilton' that resulted in the evening almost a year ago at City Hall with Ward 2 Councillor Farr. And just this summer, the start-up of 'This is Our Hamilton', a community-based site that sought to highlight the good things going on in our city in an effort to eventually get to a better state of engagement and actual participation in our own local governance. So I suppose through your lenses, I haven't done 'anything myself'. Fascinating perspective, but not any surprise, given the thrust of your response. As the Brits are wont to say, 'Good luck with that.'

'But he doesn't want to tell us what it is...'

Codswallop. If you could get past your inarguable dislike for what I say and the way in which I say it, a dislike that is based on far more than content and delivery, and you'd actually read what I've published, you wouldn't be making such a supercilious comment. The basis of my beliefs is all there. My manifesto, the progression of proposed cause-and-effects towards actually taking our place at the governance table? All there. That you are disinclined towards either asking me directly or taking the initiative to delve into the stuff I refer to in my clearly-corrosive-to-you-and-yours is not my concern, though it saddens me. (I'll get over it.) It might come down to difference of opinion (I somehow doubt it's this simple) or insecurity or just plain old bloody-mindedness. Again, not my concern. But if you'd ever like to have a coffee and discuss it, I'm always amenable. (The truth is that at the core, you either disagree entirely with my beliefs, or their notions scare you because they're much more a challenge than the ones you cleave to. You know, the praying for the 'saviour candidate', the entrenchment of the 'Us' vs 'Them' paradigm, and the such.)

As for your last notion... Childishness. Immaturity. A self-indulgent resolve to continue the 'echo-chamber/endless-loop', the cacophony of zealotry and the concomitant happy-clapping of the like-minded. Which frankly, most people outside this site, and most people outside your clique(s) are either unaware of (the respective numbers of 'you' and 'them' are at opposite ends of the spectrum) or dismissive of.

I get that you're tired of what I have to say. I get that you feel slighted and disrespected on various levels. And I certainly respect that you have every right to your opinion. Keeping all of this in mind, the fact that instead of engaging me...either here, or in an email or in-person...that you're in effect, contributing to a passive muzzling (tuning me out) is, ironically, reflective of the overall state of affairs in Hamilton.

It's clear at this point that for specific reasons, some connected to execution of efforts, some connected to personal circumstances, that it's very doubtful that I'm going to be able to make happen what I had intended. But to quote that great dancing sage, 'Nobody puts Baby in the corner.'

Comment edited by ThisIsOurHamilton on 2012-10-31 06:47:59

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By doer in the headlights (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2012 at 08:02:24 in reply to Comment 82450

As expected, the bloviating imperious insufferable admonishment.

This is exactly why people are tuning you out.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2012 at 09:19:04 in reply to Comment 82417

As somebody who hasn't been following Stelco's sales, has Environment Canada been following this process? I'm worried about a bunch of brownfields with millions of dollars of toxic soil remediation needed and nobody accountable for that cost because the property has changed hands through a bunch of numbered no-name companies.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 31, 2012 at 10:16:45 in reply to Comment 82419

Here are some questions:

How much of that land is owned by Losani?

How much of that land is owned by DeSantis?

How much of that land is owned by Marz?

How much of that land is owned by Smart Centres?

How much of that land is owned by Trinity?

Comment edited by seancb on 2012-10-31 10:17:01

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 31, 2012 at 10:43:22 in reply to Comment 82454

...has Environment Canada been following this process?

My guess, probably not enough.

I'd bulldoze the whole damn place, turn it into a park/wetland and let Ma Nature help with the clean up as much as possible through phytoremediation.

The sooner this city gets on with eliminating that blight on our face to the world the better.

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By Mainstreet (anonymous) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 07:35:47

To Ryan, What a well written article.Youre thoughts and words are ahead of the curve by a country mile.One wonders why common sense and common good does not seem to matter to our city.

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By Megan (registered) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 09:48:07

Good article, it will be interesting what comes out of the OMB appeals. The province is pretty set on employment lands from my understanding.

And I believe the E in AEGD is actually 'employment' not 'economic'.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 12:29:17

I work at US Steel, there do not appear to be any intentions of selling off anything at this moment. The last part sold was the bar mill to Max Aicher from Germany. USS has no interest in safety critical bar and rod production so they sold that mill for a rumoured $25 million.

There are unused areas and buildings which could be parceled off and I wish they would be. There are parts of the old plant that would make an excellent rail switching yard, freeing up the West Harbour yard for development. Some excellent port access could also be sold to tie-in with a rail-yard making Hamilton a transportation hub, arguments about the trucking load on Hamilton roads duly noted.

So, as an update for anyone interested:

-USS metal finishing and rolling is crazy busy and only picking up more business. Lines idled for 7 years have been started and others idled rumored to start

-You may see some hiring in the finishing end soon

-The Coke Ovens are still producing and shipping out to other blast furnaces in the USS empire

-There are two new massive Coke Ovens being commissioned very soon in the States. There are worries that our coking capacity will no longer be needed in a couple of years. A coke oven shut-down would also shut-down By-Products, which removes the toxins from the gases produced when cooking coal into coke

-MANA (the sold bar mill) is in contract negotiations with USW 1005. MANA was a good news story that turned into a disaster. MANA assumed that they could buy hot steel from USS when they bought, how ever USS is not making iron or steel at Hamilton Works. MANA has been unable to source a North American supplier for steel in the quantity, price or more specifically the quality that is required for the safety critical bars they make. They are sourcing steel from Europe, nothing finalized. MANA has basically not made any sale-able product since the purchase

-The Blast Furnace is down. Steel demand in North America is currently only at %70 utilization. Guys are convinced the furnace will start again,I think they are mistaken. A start-up will cost about $100 million, current market demand will not support that kind of capital expenditure (IMHO). The only hope is that a major re-build of a massive USS Blast Furnace is looming (Gary Works), requiring it to be down for many months. Another smaller furnace also requires maintenance. Hamilton could run for a year or two to cover these outages.

So the possibility exists that Hamilton USS could only be a finishing plant, freeing up the land occupied by the Coke Ovens, BOF (the building with the flag on it), Caster, By-Products, Furnace and possibly the Steam Plant (a new plant could be built closer to Finishing). The new Waste Water plant could remain to treat any ground water if required.

And that folks, is all I know.

Comment edited by mrjanitor on 2012-11-01 12:30:11

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 12:49:14 in reply to Comment 82512

And I guess the way this ties into the AEGD is thus: would it be smarter for Hamilton to spend money moving the railyards and building at the West Harbour than building around the airport when the business park there is already 80% vacant?

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 13:01:35 in reply to Comment 82512

I work at US Steel, there do not appear to be any intentions of selling off anything at this moment.

"Hot strip finishing mill" is currently listed on Colliers as are some vacant lands.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 13:12:51 in reply to Comment 82513

It would be better for us to stop exposing our ass to the rest of the world and improve our valuable waterfront lands to be something besides an industrial wasteland.

With the Chinese and CIS countries all modernizing their steel mills (often located mere kms from iron ore mines) it is going to be increasingly difficult to compete making steel and manufacturing is in serious decline in this country and that is unlikely to change, our industry minister told us that point blank just the other week.

“This sector is moving, and we cannot recapture the past,” Paradis said. “This is a sector in a full period of transformation. The old manufacturing economy is not coming back.” - From CBC Hamilton

Believe him, that's as honest as the Conservatives get.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 13:22:15

With the amount of heavy industry on the waterfront every business from Bunge on Victoria to Rutgers and Columbia Chemical on Strathcona would have to be closed. The whole stretch. I'm sorry but I do not see that as any way feasible or desirable in the next 20 years. US Steel is sandwiched completely by heavy industry and may have some of the most toxic soil in Canada. I feel that it has little realistic use other than industrial.

I'd rather keep that land as heavy industry and focus on the West Harbour. That seems achievable and desirable to me.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 13:27:46

Thank you for the Colliers information. The Gage property has been for sale for quite a while. The Piers should be secured for future growth and plans. The Hot Strip is going fairly cheap as well. It would be wise to investigate purchasing the Piers and Hot Strip (land value only).

The listing are near the bottom:


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By Kiely (registered) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 16:07:00 in reply to Comment 82518

I feel that it has little realistic use other than industrial.

Than a wasteland it will remain, you'll never fill that much acreage with industrial again. I also don't see why you think we'd need to close the whole stretch either? I'm not saying wipe all industrial from that side of town but we do need to start reducing the amount of industrial lands in that area to better leverage the waterfront for the future and what needs to be a post-steel Hamilton, because steel making is our past not out future. But that's hard to buy into as a steel employee Janitor, I can understand that. What I’m saying may just sound like complete nonsense to you.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 16:16:25 in reply to Comment 82521

It would be wise to investigate purchasing the Piers and Hot Strip (land value only).

Definitely and at least that way we control the land use, Janitor ; )

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 16:29:56

Then what exactly ARE you proposing Kiely? Since you haven't laid that out, yes, what you are saying does sound like complete nonsense to me.

Since I am obliviously not communicating clearly I'll lay out my ideas point by point.

1) I'm proposing that the rail yards be moved to unused US Steel lands sometime in the future.

2) I'm proposing that by moving the rail yards we can move forward with the Setting Sail plan for the West Harbour.

3) I'm proposing that we leverage the rail yard initiative with our excellent harbour access to create a transportation hub. I'm proposing that this set-up will have way more economic benefits than the charade the AEGD is, but follows a similar business plan.

4) I'm proposing that a transportation hub ties in with current commercial uses and matches up with announced developments such as the industrial park being constructed on the old Studebaker lands.

5) I'm proposing that any land that may become available at USS also be purchased for a business park to support and feed off of the transportation hub.

6) I am clearly stating that the metal finishing end of USS Hamilton is thriving and actually growing, creating employment. I feel that this needs to be supported as it does not spew pollution as Blast Furnaces, By-Products operations, Coke Ovens and Basic Oxygen Furnaces usually do industry wide.

7) I am stating that the soil remediation required on USS lands for any use other than industrial is stunningly cost prohibitive. Any thoughts otherwise based on my knowledge are naive.

In closing, what mysterious 'waterfront plans' are you envisioning without wiping out the whole industrial strip? What would you have done with these lands that is timely and affordable? What can be done with these lands considering that the USS metal finishing operations are thriving and will continue in the far foreseeable future?

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By j (registered) | Posted November 01, 2012 at 17:17:22 in reply to Comment 82451

you answered 7 paragraphs pretty well with 'bloviating'

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted November 01, 2012 at 20:24:50

Manufacturing bulk cheap steel products in the First World is probably failing business strategy for the foreseeable future, at least as long as competition from Mexico, China etc is a prospect. Focusing on this type of steelmaking was one of the many poor decisions made by old Stelco management which led to this state of affairs. It has to be mentioned, however, that there's another major steelmakers in this town(!) which focused on higher end products (advanced alloys, etc) and instead became one of the most profitable plants on the continent.

I'd love to see the waterfront free of all industry (see my screen name), but I wouldn't want that to happen at the expense of another area with worse health, safety and environmental laws. If world-class steelmaking is possible here, then it's something we shouldn't write off. This is the kind of production Hamilton needs, not suburban warehouse districts and sprawl housing.

Wouldn't it be nice if "steelmaking" were acutally a serious job prospect for young people in Hamilton?

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted November 02, 2012 at 10:30:55

Bratina opens up honestly about the AEDG on Catch:

“We all know in our heart of hearts that’s going to be sprawl residential development,” he said. “It’s not going to be 52,000 jobs; it’s going to be a bunch of houses around the airport.”


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By mainstreet (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2012 at 11:11:27

A transportation hub would work if a container terminal was created on USS property for the purpose of moving containers by barge across the lake.The barges and the tugboats to move them are now in the harbor.Each barge load is 200 trucks removed from the border bottleneck and not on the QEW.This would bring huge savings in fuel and labor as well as a huge footprint lifted from our environmental deficit.Now were talking transportation hub.The rail links and highways are all synergistically located in our industrial zone.This is more doable and realistic than the airport plan.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 02, 2012 at 11:18:43 in reply to Comment 82540

I've heard some speculation from a guy in the transportation industry that this is the Next Big Thing - barges for the Great Lakes/St. Laurence Seaway as an alternative to freight cars and trucks... has anything like this been taking off?

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By Public space Pete (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2012 at 11:34:46 in reply to Comment 82539

A few comments:
1. Councillors are only doing the job of meeting the wishes of the people that get them elected; thats their donors not voters of course.
2. The residential developers have laid out their own patches and will not be stepping on each others toes. Agreements & deals with AEGD land owners was locked up before the process started.
3. What money does the city have left? I thought the stadium drained our funds and we cannot borrow more because of the WWTP upgrades.
4. Steel plants with good, large ship water access for materials can still be viable in the west. Especially around the great lakes region if we can keep the steel user base by solving the high canadian petro-dollar.
5. Cheap shale gas will underpin future industrial development, we just do not know what that is as yet. That should be studied to be incorporated into our provincial & city vision.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 02, 2012 at 15:09:15 in reply to Comment 82543

Yeah, that. I have no idea if it's taking off or not.

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By observer (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2012 at 15:39:30

mrjanitor at November 02, 2012 at 10:30:55 helpfully quotes this from Bob Bratina via CATCH: Bratina opens up honestly about the AEDG on Catch:
“We all know in our heart of hearts that’s going to be sprawl residential development,” he said. “It’s not going to be 52,000 jobs; it’s going to be a bunch of houses around the airport.”
Except that this was the media desert of Hamilton, it was astounding that seven years ago Hamilton media and likely some on council took the imaginary, fanciful "52,000" aerotrop "jobs" as a given, unexamined. No one does simple arithmetic about what fixed investment input is req'd per job: it varies from $ several hundred thousand for something like Toyota Woodstock, and down for lower-paid lower investment jobs from there. BUT STILL that idiotic number implied billions & billions of investment. (let's see, who was mayor in 2005?)

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2012 at 15:58:20

Ryan, are you still harping about peak oil?

What was your oil price prediction for 2012 again? $200 per barrel?

What about record low natural gas prices?

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted November 05, 2012 at 08:09:44

CBC Hamilton has posted an article by Adam Carter today titled "Horseracing industry collapsing, Hamilton area experts say": http://www.cbc.ca/hamilton/news/story/20...

The Ontario government decision to end the Slots for Racetracks program with no timely and viable alternative to replace it, and the push by OLG to move gaming facilities out of the racetracks and into the downtowns of Ontario cities and towns as soon as possible will weaken the resolve of many local farmers to continue operating their farms and instead considering selling their farms to developers. The convergence of this issue with other issues as AEGD expansion, the resurrection of the mid-peninsula highway plans, and the local decision of the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board to build a secondary school south of the Linc and close several high schools north of the Linc needs to be discussed and address at the local and provincial levels.

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By amandap (registered) | Posted November 06, 2012 at 15:34:12

The concept of the Aerotropolis is very concerning. We already have an amazing city and downtown core that is mostly under-utilized and in dire need for attention. Why do we need to continue to sprawl further and further out? Why are we trying to develop a new core when we have one already? The whole concept irks be as it brings up many ideas about surburban spawl in general.

If people want sprawl or the suburbs, they should move to Burlington, Ancaster, Oakville, Mississauga or Burlington. There will always be residents who prefer to reside in the suburbs, just as we have residents who might prefer to live in an urban downtown core. I am not suggesting that we should banish the concept of suburb altogether, but when Hamilton has clearly catered to low-density and suburban homes consistently over the past 20-30 years while ignoring the core, I'd say that it's time to shift our focus.

We have a REAL urban centre here in Hamilton. We need to invest in our core to re-estabilish it! Why can't we take pride in developing and building our downtown first, and worry about building new suburbs once we fix our foundation? What we have here is a unique and thriving city with a lot of potential. We have the geographical space, resources, urban layout and population to thrive as a great mid-sized city. Hamilton can be compared in so many ways to many American cities. During the day the city is busy, the streets are being used and it feels hass a lively atmosphere. Once 5 pm hits, everyone evacuates to their suburbs and abaondons the core.

Anyway, after having said all that I can only hope that one day our focus will shift back to improving the core and not on the Aerotropolis!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted November 09, 2012 at 12:21:06 in reply to Comment 82702

Yeah, like most people you believed the economists who said that the demand for oil is inelastic. It turns out the oil demand is perfectly elastic... it's just the entire economy gets screwed up to reduce the demand for oil.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 09, 2012 at 19:06:01 in reply to Comment 82702

>> In short, I was wrong about how much resilience the economy has to high oil prices: we're actually in even worse shape than I thought

The real U.S. economy is actually in great shape, if you assume that most people buy homes to live in, rather than flip. Since 1983, the BLS has omitted house prices from the CPI, with the assumption that homes are now better classified as investments, rather than consumption goods.

However, for all practical purposes, most people buy homes to live in, not to trade.

If we make that assumption, that homes are consumer goods, this is what U.S. real GDP looks like...


As you can see, high oil prices have had very little effect on real GDP, as measured by real market prices.

Keep in mind that bankers don't like it when home prices fall, because that means smaller mortgages. As a result, they will keep selling the idea that rising home prices are a good thing (strong economy), not a bad thing (rising household debt).

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted November 10, 2012 at 23:17:35

Eisenberger voted in favour to zone and expand the AEGD. Bratina voted to not so much.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted November 15, 2012 at 17:15:27

Here is the link to an article titled "City stiffed on airport taxes" posted on the Hamilton Catch website on Nov 12/12: http://www.hamiltoncatch.org/view_articl...

This will be a ridiculous outcome for Hamilton taxpayers in 2013 after having granted Tradeport International Corporation a 16 year tax holiday in 1996.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2012-11-15 17:19:28

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By Margaret (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2012 at 19:45:11

Here's an idea,how about the old guard at city hall says well service the airport lands as soon as the city DEBT falls below a BILLION DOLLARS and the cost to service our DEBT drops below ONE MILLION DOLLARS per week.And the infrasructure deficit fall far below its current level of TWO BILLION DOLLARS a year and climbing out of control at TWO HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS a year.Do the developers that own the hall have no end to their greed and ability to corrupt.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2013 at 11:26:11

Just as predicted in its unofficial provincial anthem from the 1960s, Ontario has indeed become a place to grow. And since approximately six million of the province’s 13.5 million people live in the Greater Toronto Area, government officials cannot be blamed for making difficult decisions to prepare for another two million newcomers in the years ahead.

To ignore those growth projections would be irresponsible, even if they aren’t expected until the decade between 2031 and 2041. But a recent amendment to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe treads into potentially dangerous territory by giving developers new opportunities to build on precious green space, even with checks and balances by local municipalities.

Given that urban sprawl has contributed to the gridlock that costs the region some $6 billion in lost productivity each year, the municipalities that still have swaths of open land must be extremely careful moving forward. Future generations will thrive only if local governments make smart decisions.

Rampant housing development without proper transit will further diminish the region’s productivity and quality of life. Of equal importance is the fact that much of the at-risk land is made up of rich agricultural soil that can feed thousands. It has to be protected.

Infrastructure Minister Glen Murray says the government plan will “protect the environment while creating jobs, attracting new investment, and strengthening local economies.” And the minister’s spokesperson says protections remain because municipalities must follow the rules before expanding the boundaries of certain green spaces. For example, local governments that want to build on prime land must first show that the property does not comprise specialty crop areas, that there are no “reasonable” alternatives, and that the impact on nearby agriculture will be lessened “to the extent feasible.” Those rules aren’t entirely reassuring.

The devil, as they say, is in the details and critics such as former Toronto mayor John Sewell call the amendment a loophole that will help developers build more subdivisions. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture has also warned against paving over prime farmland.

The original much-lauded plan wasn’t perfect: strict limits on developments diminished the region’s housing supply and, at least in part, forced a dramatic spike in housing prices. And it didn’t stop all housing development. Some just jumped over the protected areas to less-regulated lands, further extending the sprawl.

Still, Ontario’s cachet as a place to grow is vitally important. With the new discretion allowed in government rules, it’s now up to the municipalities to control the future and use those powers wisely.


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