Time To Follow Through On Intensification Goals

By Jason Leach
Published August 05, 2010

The upcoming agenda for the Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting on August 9th at City Hall contains items that really make me wonder about our ability to compete with other cities that truly understand twenty-first century urbanism.

This document (PDF) shows some fantastic transit oriented development guidelines that could reshape Hamilton and take us by the scruff of the neck into the twenty first century. Great images of cities that are well ahead of us to provide inspiration of what could be here in the Hammer.

On the same agenda, we find this document.

It outlines a fantastic plan for an old home on Strathcona Avenue between King and Main to be completely rebuilt and converted into 5 condo units. Staff are recommending that the application be denied.

For all the talk of intensification and re-urbanizing downtown Hamilton, it is perplexing to see city staff deny this application. I'll have to make a mental note of this as a reminder to staff the next time a new homeless shelter or youth hostel is proposed for my neighbourhood - they approve those with regularity at the drop of a hat. Perhaps our downtown neighbourhoods aren't allowed to house middle class condo owners?

Reading the report you'll see great initiatives such as bike parking and a green roof. The only neighbourhood objections involved the parking access that was proposed off of Edison Street. The building owner agreed to remove this part of the plan in order to appease Edison St residents.

You'll notice many letters of support from neighbours regarding this plan, yet the application is still being recommended to be denied by staff.

Why is it that one sole person can prevent the Courtyard Cafe from getting a liquor license for their patio, yet all of these letters of support for this condo project don't mean anything?

Once again, we are our own worst enemy.

Transit oriented guidelines and talk of mixed-use 'main streets' are worthless if we deny small infill projects and courtyard patios.

Any exciting city I've been to is full of infill projects like this Strathcona one. It's one of the most common ways to increase density without adding large towers into residential neighbourhoods.

Choose your path Hamilton. Old, 1970's development, or forward thinking 21st century development?

Please stop advocating both. If we're going to move forward, let's go. If not, throw out transit oriented guidelines because we'll never develop the need for them.

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 Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted August 06, 2010 at 00:35:27

"You can't change the planning policies or the economics of development until you change people's mindsets about planning and development." ~ RM, September 28, 2007

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted August 06, 2010 at 01:56:00

Just a quick scan of the application it seams that they fall well short of the city's guidelines, in almost all areas, for the zoning that they are requesting.

If my neighbours applied for a zoning change like that one I would appose it, as did all the letters from the neighbours at 16 Strachcona. You mention all the letters of support yet they are hugely outnumbered by the letters of opposition which you do not mention at all. The letters of support (2 from the same person) came from the owner's tenants and people who do not live there. It is pretty easy to recommend something bad in someone elses backyard. This application should be and hopefully will be rejected by the city.

This is a bad proposal for the neighbourhood.

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By mdruker (registered) - website | Posted August 06, 2010 at 02:36:03

I couldn't make it past the pages on parking, which are drivel on par with the futile protests of Toronto's planning staff against the car-free condo tower. From Toronto:

"To assume a residential development of the project's scale might be totally car-free runs counter to expert study and experience," the staff report stated. "Although there are many households in the downtown (area) without cars, it would be highly unlikely to find 315 of them permanently concentrated in one building."

Sometimes I wonder whether North American planners have learned anything from Jane Jacobs. And sometimes I think that the primary problem is the existence of a profession that we allow to decide how cities should work, all the while presenting itself as scientific.

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By Jason (registered) | Posted August 06, 2010 at 07:26:37

As a side note, almost every letter opposed to this plan was due to the backyard parking proposed off Edison St. That has now been scrapped.

I emailed McHattie and told him Id jump for joy if this was proposed next door to my house. It's a beautiful condo project IMO.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted August 06, 2010 at 09:16:47

This may not be real "intensive" but it's certainly the most progressive thing I've heard from Council in a while. Turning a parking lot into a park, how modern!

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