Categories: DevelopmentDowntown & Waterfront

This just in: 27 storey proposal on Brant St; would overwhelm City Hall square

The city has just received an application from Carriage Gate Homes to amend the Official Plan and Zoning By-law to permit a 27 storey mixed-use building at Brant and James streets across from City Hall.

The development encompasses five individual parcels at 421, 425, 427, 429 and 431 Brant Street, as well as 2007 to 2015 James Street, running the width of the block from Brant to James.

The application is for a mixed use building with retail on the ground floor, office on the second floor and residential above. Features include:

  • This proposal at 421 Brant Street Burlington represents over-intensification

    183 residential units

  • 1,327 square metres of office space
  • 966 square metres of commercial retail space
  • 4 levels of underground parking
  • vehicular access from John St
  • condo lobby off James St
  • commercial / retail units fronting onto Brant St and James St.

The proposed height is 27 storeys (that includes a 1-storey rooftop amenity area), with a three floor podium. The sidewalks will be widened all around the building, with a public art opportunity at the corner.

More information about this project is available on the city’s webpage dedicated to this project: 421-431 Brant/James

You can track progress of this development on this page, including announcements of community meetings and staff reports. You will also find supporting documents provided by the applicant, included here also, after My Take.

A neighbourhood meeting has been scheduled on March 28, 7pm, at the Art Gallery of Burlington.

My Take:

First the good news: Retail at grade is good, as is office space (much needed downtown) and underground parking. Some condos above make good use of space and bring more residents downtown. Wider sidewalks to allow patios, street furniture, art and trees – all good.


The proposal is too tall and will overwhelm City Hall and the area. It represents overintensification.

Some background on this site: before my time, the city “downzoned” Brant St from 8 storeys to 4 storeys, with allowance to go back to 8 storeys with provision of negotiated “community benefits.” Carriage Gate appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board and got 12 storeys here. I think 4-8 is the right number for this section of Brant. This application is more than double that.

Proposed building at Martha/Lakeshore being revised; goes to OMB Feb 2017

If approved it will set a precedent for future proposals in the downtown. Is it any coincidence it’s the same height as the Martha/Lakeshore development the city is fighting at the Ontario Municipal Board? I don’t want downtown to be a forest of highrises; I don’t think you do either. But each new development seems to push the envelope.

This application is also the inevitable fruit of the city’s tall building guidelines, endorsed in draft by city council last fall (I did not support). My concern then and now is that it encourages applications to come forward that conform to the tall building guidelines but not the Official Plan and Zoning, in the wrong place on the wrong lot.

We already saw that happen with the Alton development – which council opposed 6-1 and we must now fight at the OMB. Now this.

The guidelines say they are not intended to encourage tall buildings where not permitted by the OP and Zoning – but that is exactly what has happened, twice, in less than six months. The guidelines now make it harder to defend our OP and Zoning if a proposal conforms to the guidelines. (As an aside: I encourage everyone who is available to attend the Tall building workshop: Sat. Jan. 28, 11-3, Art Gallery of Burlington. This is a critical discussion for our entire community. Overintensification isn’t limited to the downtown anymore.)

If this proposal is approved it will launch a fundamental change in our downtown, not for the better, negatively impacting quality of life, congestion, heritage and small town feel.  It would also overwhelm a public space, city hall.

Suburban Nation, a book about how to build great communities and downtowns (hint: traditional town planning is the way to go), states that planners used to reserve prominent places for civic buildings – “those structures that represent the collective identity and aspirations of the community.” Think of schools, libraries and historical municipal and legislative buildings on hills, at street ends, often surrounded by parkland to set them apart. Buildings around them descend in size so our community buildings stand out as special – because our communities themselves are special. One way to say our communities are special is how we plan our neighbourhoods, public spaces and civic buildings, including what goes where and how big it is.

Our public square and City Hall, at 8 storeys, will be dwarfed by this condo.

By contrast, consider the Saxony development on the other side of City Hall, on Locust street. At four storeys it conforms to the existing Official Plan and Zoning, blends well with the adjacent two storey townhomes and 3 storey seniors apartment – and the developer’s even preserved and relocated an onsite historical building!

Respectful, appropriate development can be done downtown.

View of Paradigm from Fairview.

There is a place for taller buildings in Burlington, and that’s along our GO stations. The city is investing millions to develop “mobility hub” plans for each of our three GO stations, that will include jobs, housing and retail. Consider, for example the Paradigm 5-tower development at the Burlington GO station, with heights ranging from 18-24 storeys. It’s on a wider street than Brant (4 lanes, plus turn lanes), next to a multitude of transportation options.

Downtown is also a “mobility hub” and it is already the most dense area in the city, in terms of people and jobs per hectare. We don’t need to overintensify any single lot to make it function well, or meet our intensification goals under provincial legislation. We can achieve appropriate redevelopment by sticking to our existing OP and Zoning.

Supporting Documents (provided by applicant):

Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made. As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington. The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful. Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch:

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