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City revises Waterfront Hotel site plan to add greenspace, keep towers 14-25 storeys; Residents offer alternative

To Planning & Development Committee, Nov. 28, 6:30pm

Alternative emerging concept for Waterfront Hotel site.

City staff have revised the emerging concept for the potential redevelopment of the Waterfront Hotel study site to include a 4-storey podium along Lakeshore Rd with two towers at each end of 14-18 storeys on the West side and 20-25 storeys on the East side. The revision increases parkland on the west side contiguous with Spencer Smith Park and removes the pathway between the buildings. Other changes include reducing the length of the street and turnaround at the bottom of Elizabeth St. The portion of podium located at the foot of John Street is envisioned to be a 3 to 4 storey glass atrium that allows for views through the building to the lake.

The revised concept is in response to public feedback about the previous options that the suggested buildings were too tall and that there was not enough open space. Most Waterfront Hotel Study workshop participants felt that the height of the existing hotel building was appropriate (at 6 storeys) even though it is less than what is permitted under the current as-of-right zoning. Additionally, there was strong preference for leaving the west portion of the property undeveloped, as open space to augment Spencer Smith Park and to create opportunities for wide sweeping views to the lake.

Residents can comment on the city’s revised concept via an online survey by Dec. 5 here: Waterfront Hotel survey


Meanwhile, a group of residents have developed their own alternative, dubbed Plan B, which pushes buildings further to the east of the site to maximize parkland to the West. The heights would range from 14 to 22 storeys, in two towers. Residents can sign a survey in support of Plan B, or suggest further revisions here: Plan B petition

Staff are providing an update report on the status and progress of the Waterfront Hotel Planning Study, along with public feedback to date, at the Nov. 28 Planning & Development Committee, at 1pm. No decisions will be made; the report is a receive and file. Planning staff are working towards the delivery of a preferred concept for endorsement by council in Q1 2018. This will be followed by a site-specific Official Plan Amendment, Zoning By-law Amendment, and Design Guidelines in Q2 2018.


The city’s Official Plan requires a planning study prior to any redevelopment of the site.  The plan states:

“Any further development on these lands shall provide a high quality of urban design reflecting the landmark nature of this site and shall be contingent upon the completion of a master plan to the satisfaction of City Council. This master plan shall address the integration of these lands with the publicly owned lands to the south and west and the private development to the east, and shall address other matters such as preservation of lake views and enhancements to the public realm.”

In 2008, the property was sold. The current landowner expressed his interest in pursuing a redevelopment of the entire site including demolition of the existing hotel. As a result, the study was commenced, paid for by the owner and supervised by city staff.
Potential 8-storey structure allowed under existing zoning.

The Waterfront hotel is in the Wellington Square Precinct which has a current height limit of 8 storeys as of right with the opportunity to consider 14 storeys as a rezoning that provides compatibility with surrounding uses and a sense of pedestrian scale and community amenity contributions. The maximum Floor Area Ratio (FAR) in Wellington Square is 5:1, except where greater height is being considered through a rezoning in which case a higher FAR may also be considered.

My Take:
Though the revised concept is better than the others, increasing green space to the west and reducing the height of the podium along Lakeshore Rd., the plan contains two towers and the heights are still excessive. The residents Plan B provides more greenspace to the West, and also includes two towers, ranging from 14-22 storeys.
I would prefer one building on the east side of the site, perhaps with a tiered podium, at 4-6 storeys. This would provide some development on the site while increasing parkland.
It may be difficult to fully achieve existing development rights while increasing greenspace, without excessive heights which are not supported by the public. As such, we should consider a variety of tools to increase greenspace, such as taking parkland dedication which we are entitled to do, instead of taking cash in lieu. We should also partner with Halton Region, as Spencer Smith Park is a regional park.
We’re not ready to approve anything, and we shouldn’t rush it. This is the most important site in our downtown and waterfront. We need to get it right.

Written by 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.

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  1. A question only to Ward 2 Councillor: being that most of the issues from your ward has to do with the downtown and waterfront which affects “all” citizens of Burlington, please reply whether this same NEWS, SURVEYS, etc. are shared online by the other Ward Councillors for those residents to share their comments on? I did check one Ward briefly and did not see any news or comments, and therefore my question, and thinking that so many are not even aware of what is going on in the downtown/lakefront core. This News should be City wide, as all of Burlington uses these avenues for shopping, eating, walking, swimming, etc. etc.

    • Sharon, Thanks for the question. I can’t speak for the other councillors but do know that people across the city subscribe to my newsletter and read the website. I encourage residents to share this information with everyone you know.

  2. I strongly dislike the “Plan B” proposed by some citizens. Although I appreciate their desire to maximize green space, cramming 2 tall buildings into the corner of the lot is not an answer. I live in the area and would prefer it stay as is but know that is unrealistic. My take is that the Planning Department is on the right track with their revised proposal. The lower the height of buildings the better and I appreciate your efforts to take a stand on this.

  3. We have only one waterfront and there won’t be another chance to get it right, so it is worth further serious discussion. I hope to speak at the next meeting on the 28th at 6.30pm.Thank you for taking this initiative to involve the public. There is much to love about Burlington’s urban fabric and scale,that can be enhanced even with the threat of high rise buildings. I have a background in architecture and urban planning and have been active on many stakeholder committee groups representing the York Quay Neighbourhood Association (YQNA) in connection with the redevelopment of Toronto’s Central Waterfront over the past 12 years.

  4. Re: Waterfront Hotel Redevelopment
    Take heed to all Planners working on this project: a strong message and quote from one of your own Planners is: “what really matters is how you grow big, not how big you grow”! Please listen to the citizens views and comments on what strategically works for this unique landmark waterfront location.

  5. Is the Planning & Development Committee meeting (where staff will present/ other delegates will speak) not at 6:30pm on November 28th?

  6. On behalf of all citizens of Burlington and the many visitors to our cherished waterfront thank you for listening to us and publically expressing your views Marianne. Given the importance of this particular development we expect the City Manager James Ridge, the Director of Planning and Building, Mary Lou Tanner, Mayor Goldring and Councillors Taylor, Lancaster, Dennison, Craven and Sharman are listening to us and will act accordingly. We must get this development right for the future of Burlington. Grow Smart: Expand greenspace and do not wall off our waterfront.

What's your take?

Plans released for highrise (20+), retail & office development at three GO stations

No need to rush to approve new Official Plan