Smart Centres, one of Canada's largest "power centre" developers (that's the juiced-up name for big box projects like the Meadowlands Power Centre) has just bought over 12 hectares of land at one of Hamilton's most strategic entrance points - the QEW and Centennial Pkwy.
Plans are up in the air still, but one thing is for sure: that entrance needs a good scrubbing. Right now you enter Hamilton to ugly old warehouses surrounded by huge piles of scrap metal.
Smart Centres also builds office and industrial projects so the possibilities for this piece of land are quite varied at this time.
I'd urge local residents and city council to work with this firm from the get-go to ensure that whatever is built is of the best quality design and not just another bland blob of box stores or crummy-looking manufacturing plant.
It will be tough to build something that looks worse than the current set-up at that entrance, but too often we set our sights low in Hamilton - we strive to improve just barely on what we already have.
This is a golden opportunity to see a modern, clean, welcoming development - mixed use, maybe with retail, commercial, condo, hotel, and office use all wrapped in one.
Let's set our sights high and make it known to this company that we want a top-notch development here. Use whatever words we need to use - Toronto quality, Vancouver style, whatever - just not another glorified strip mall with tacky signs and endless parking spaces facing the QEW.
After checking out the website for Smart Centres, I am much more skeptical and worried about what is going to be built at their recently-purchased land at the QEW and Centennial Parkway.
Take a browse on their site to see for yourself. This firm is the brains behind the sprawling complexes at Hwy 53 and 20 in (Hamilton, I guess I'm not sure where exactly that is. It's supposed to be farmland), and at 53 and Hwy 2 in Ancaster.
They also own the complex at the QEW and Guelph Line in Burlington. I took a look at their Toronto sites to see if perhaps they have the ability to develop proper, urban "smart centres", but no such luck.
The aerial photos of their Toronto locations look ridiculous tightly knit urban neighbourhoods with homes and highrises suddenly turn into a never-ending blob of warehouses and parking lots at these Smart Centres.
Here's hoping city council takes the lead and puts a stop to further big box development in Hamilton as was suggested last year by Councillor McHattie. As it turns out, Smart Centres aren't very smart at all.
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