On November 1st, the Planning and Development Committee approved a Planning staff recommendation to allow the development of a 23-storey building right across from City Hall at the North East corner of James and Brant Street.
The building would include 169 residential units, office space on the second floor and ground floor retail.
The Committee voted 5-2 in favour of this recommendation. I voted against this proposal.
Downtown Burlington is a very desirable area to live and work for obvious reasons. There are great restaurants, unique shops and amenities including the Performing Arts Centre and proximity to the waterfront.
There are also great places to live, in existing modern high-rise buildings that were built over the last 20 years including 360 on Pearl, the Pearl and Pine Retirement Residence and the Baxter. None of these buildings exceeds 18 storeys.
In my view, our downtown has an appropriate scale of current development that provides an urban intimacy. The proposed 23-storey building across from the City Hall is not consistent with the present scale, and we should not approve it.
The development proposal is not consistent with the new Downtown Mobility Hub Draft Precinct Plan that was presented to council by Planning staff in October.
The Draft Precinct Plan called for a Special Policy Area at the corner of James and Brant that would allow building height of 17 storeys, assuming that certain public benefits could be achieved. I supported that plan and believe that this site is appropriate for a well-designed building that is either mid-rise or up to 17 storeys, not 23.
I understand the rationale for taller and more slender buildings, but a well-developed mid-rise or lower high-rise will fit the scale and form the character of our downtown that many residents have asked us to maintain. Planning staff have stated that a larger, wider and shorter 12-storey building can house the same amount of residential, office and retail space that the proposed 23-storey building would contain.
Our downtown, South of Caroline, can be shaped with well-thought-out buildings that are 17-storeys or lower that provide an inviting, pedestrian-friendly and attractive street.
Brant Street can improve without dramatically changing it. The focus in our downtown should be distinctive and attractive design, not excessive height.
I am concerned about the negative consequences of this decision. We cannot look at this decision in isolation as there is reasonable planning rationale to mirror the same height and density on the opposite side of James Street.
I am concerned that this proposed development will have a considerable impact on the Draft Downtown Plan and undermine the confidence that residents are being asked to have for the City’s vision for future growth in the downtown.
Burlington City Council will make the final decision at our next meeting in the council chambers at City Hall on Monday, November 13th at 6:30 p.m.
If you’d like to have your voices heard, I encourage you to email the members of the council and me. You can also register to delegate at the council meeting, which allows you to state your perspective publicly.