in , , ,

27 Downtown Highrises: City Hall Plan Radically Changes Canada’s Best Mid-sized City

Burlington deserves a better plan

City staff want approval to fundamentally alter Burlington’s downtown by adding massive height and density increases throughout the downtown, adding 27 highrises and 13,000 people.

Height will go from 4-8 storeys in the Downtown Core Precinct to up to 17. This area covers most of the east side of Brant from James to Pine over to Pearl.

North of Blairholm to Graham’s Lane & Prospect in the new Upper Brant Precinct, height will increase from 4–8 storeys to 25 storeys. 

The urban growth centre boundaries have changed to include parts of stable neighbourhoods, including the Lion’s Club park and neighbourhood to the north between Pearl and Martha. This area will see possible density increases to 200 people or jobs per hectare.

Planning staff also recommends permitting semi-detached homes in the St Luke’s and Emerald Precincts, and all low-density downtown neighbourhoods. Protection to limit semis to the same lot coverage as single family homes, at 25%, and the same Floor Area Ratio, to avoid monster semis covering most of the lot will be considered later.

The downtown is already on track to meet its growth targets with the current plan

This is a bad deal for Burlington – by giving away height and density – the city gets nothing new –  just tall buildings and more congestion.

Tell council to vote no on January 16th.

Canada’s best mid-sized city deserves a better plan.

To read the details in greater depth, click here

City Hall Plan Changes Canada's Best Mid-Sized City
City Hall Plan Changes Canada's Best Mid-Sized City

City staff want approval to fundamentally alter Burlington’s downtown by adding height and density throughout the downtown. 

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.

Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch:


Leave a Reply
  1. Just to reiterate many of these points:First,this council was not elected to make these changes .This type of high-rise intensification was never part of a discussion in the last election; Secondly,if you look back at the present councillors’ financial statements, available through the city’s website,you can gain some understanding of where their campaign support came from and draw your own conclusions

    • Fully agree
      It’s not cheap to run an election…even if one is barely challenged.
      Sadly only about 1/3 of eligible voters turned out to cast their votes

  2. Honestly, I gave up on Burlington a while ago. I can’t remember the last time I went downtown. It has become a cold, concrete urban mistake with absolutely no charm, and these new builds will make it even worse. Our planners seem to have no idea that Burlington is a mid-sized city and you don’t move to Burlington because you want a Toronto aesthetic. I avoid getting around in Burlington because it is so difficult and not worth the effort. A quick trip on the QE takes me to Oakville where I can get all the charm, and a lot less traffic. Maybe we can ask them for tips on how to do it right.

    • I agree… You don’t have to be blind to know that Burlington Downtown is not attractive to shoppers… Stores don’t even stay open for shoppers… It is ridiculous. Why do Councillors not care about this? So much could be done with the downtown core, to attract visitors and shoppers…
      We go to Oakville for restaurants and shops…
      Burlington should look to Oakville, Bronte, Port Credit FOR SOME IDEAS on how to set up a more pleasing atmosphere… I give up, as well…

  3. To the councillors outside of the core, some I have known for decades, please rethink your support for the mobility hub intensification plan. Three out of the five of you hold wards that have had approved massive amounts of low density development built out into our countryside. You rightly now see the need to curb that sprawl like growth, preserve our hinterland along with helping to lessen the associated pollution and the high energy consumption.
    There’s been some progress in densifying the more recent developments as with the Alton community but still falls short on laying out a plan that gets away from being auto-centric that can’t put up many buildings over 4 stories. You/we failed there and along with building up the arterial roadways so now we’re stuck densifying ‘safe’ pockets of areas (mobility hubs). Safe because it doesn’t effect your voting public much. And safe because you may think it will ward off pushing the urban envelope past where it lies for awhile.
    Rethink on how your wards can take in higher densities and spare the downtown.
    It was the older sprawl that once killed the downtown. It is the continued sprawl that has helped made the core more attractive and put Burlington in many lists, a top city to live. Don’t mess up the core again by densifying it to a point where it’s saleable character is wrecked, it’s charm spoiled by long shadows and cold concrete and its roadways clogged with cars.

  4. Paula…you are not alone thinking that way! It appears to me that our city staff are acting like they are employees of Queen’s Park, and their mantra is intensification without any consideration for the cumulative effect of all these approved development projects in the downtown core.

  5. I want to express my concerns regarding the new height proposals being considered by Burlington City Council. I have enjoyed the last 4 years living on Lakeshore Rd in the downtown area. One of the many reason I have enjoyed the area is the low level landscape that is in place now. Bigger is not always better. Burlington is well know for the Waterfront look and the planning that went into what we see today. 27 plus story buildings will take way from all the positive and mindful planning from the past . Having read some others comments here…One would agree…if this surge of Radical change of height building levels, is being driven by staff ( for economic reasons ) then our Elected Representative’s must consider the feedback from the tax payers in the area involved. Do the right thing Council and listen and act accordingly .

  6. Just reading the Oakville City plan – very interesting that they have a VERY different take on their Lakeshore Area – perhaps this type of reading would be time well spent for our city staff! Annoyed YES! There is a real absence of thoughtful leadership in city hall and it is VERY annoying!

  7. I forgot to say in my previous comment, that if you look at the Downtown Precinct Plan locations and heights, you will see the Molinaro fingerprints all over.

    Brant/Ghent Medical bldg and parking lot; the whole block at the foot of Brant at Lakeshore Rd (old RBG? bank right at corner); Brock St farther west under proposal for 22/23; and I can’t say what else without looking.

    They own a lot land or options in Downtown, and they have been pushing for height and density and a new OP for years. They have been pushing for the greater than 20 stories, Now they seem to be getting it.

    At Meed Wards downtown workshops I sat at a table with a different Molinaro on 2 nights. They were adamant about changing the OP to at least 20 stories, speaking to the Brant/Lakeshore block. Now its 25.

    I asked if they would put a floor or two of office/commercial in if they were given more density as a bonus. They said no, as the “return” was not good enough. Condos are King in Burlington – at $600 a square foot or more, there is no wonder why.

    Draft Plan says they got the 20-25, maybe plus, and without any commercial that needs to be built. So they got the density for free. Who’s in charge of this racket?

    I don’t have a general problem with Molinaro, but they have undue influence, entry to city that citizens like me will never get, money to buy lobbies, and so on. I just don’t like them busting up the main street with what to me is greedy power grasping, and getting our planners to play along.

  8. Re Penny Hersh’s comments….for those of us who do not wish to be on Facebook, how do we join ENGAGED CITIZENS OF BURLINGTON?

  9. Could you help us all understand how the staff can bring forward a proposal that is such an extreme change in direction from the previous plan for Burlington? I would truly like to understand why such a change is being considered.

    Secondly – can you help us all understand what is the process after January 16th? Does this plan have to be ratified by Council? If so – will council seek public consultation?

    Thanks in advance

    mike cook

    • Thanks for the question Mike. Probably best to read the staff report to see the rationale for supporting the 23 storeys. The link is on the webpage. Recently, staff agreed to extend the timeline for approving the Official Plan to allow more community consultation. I will provide an update once I have those details, likely later today.

  10. Marianne, I see that my comment is still awaiting moderation. I wonder if I said something that you find disrespectful, as per your subsequent post. If so I apologize. My point is that government is elected to carry out the wishes of the people who voted them in, via policy. We elect policymakers as well as legislators. Staff are tasked with implementing the policies and visions of the people we elect. They should not be in a position of dictating or forming policy.

    • Paula, you just expressed my sentiment perfectly. Is city hall working for us or the developers? Are the councillors (except for Marianne) not listening to the citizens.

  11. If we continue on the route, the downtown core will end up a cold, lifeless wind tunnel. They are turning Burlington into a carbon copy of downtown Toronto or Mississauga. Who really truly enjoys going to those places anymore?

  12. I took a visitor from New York City for a drive along the Lakeshore yesterday. She was so impressed with the open view until we came east of Brant and she exclaimed about the highrise being built there. She was disappointed not to see more of the shoreline. I will say too that the traffic was quite dense and that was a Sunday!!! We did find some pay parking, which spoiled the whole walk.


  14. Any/all City Staff Planners that are requesting “radical” changes of 4-8 storeys to an acceptable 20-25 storeys, need to give their heads a shake. The people of Burlington cannot continue to accept such ridiculous planning for our “small” downtown areas. It is clear to all of us that the density and intensification proposals are way beyond acceptable levels for the downtown area.

  15. Enough is enough…. council seems to just rubber-stamp recommendations from city staff. Prove me wrong… I hope I am… as well, there is always this good cop bad cop type of voting by council… that’s the way it seems to me…

    • Yup it is time to take back our city …. and where is the leadership of the Mayor on this loss of our city to rubber-stamping councillors. And why we are here. Lets take back our city.

  16. Where do I start Marianne. I believe our destiny was set in the 90’s. It coukd be different but with the inability of staff AND Council to be sensible, we are in deep trouble.
    These people are trying to ram through height and density prior to election.
    City Talk came out. Grow Bold. Says we’ve been
    out talking to shape our city. Not any of council but 1 has listened. Wow!!!
    Traffic gridlock? Lakeshore lined up west bound .
    From Guelph line 2 lane to Martha 3 lane to Brant 22 lane and back to 3 at Maple.
    New St: With road diet this traffic to go on other streets ie Woodward- Prospect
    Fairview and New again forced cars on Cumberland. I can expound more but now there are road humps all over and more in progress.
    All in all the last November City Talk is municipal government propaganda.

    I hope all your 4000 subscribers read and show their disgust. Those 4000 nust might turn into 70,000 voters
    One other thing— discussion time for larger
    Brian Jones Ward 6

  17. Are people going to fly to their homes? Perhaps helicopter pads should be constructed on the roofs of these buildings. How are we going to reach the city centre via the congested QEW or Lakeshore Road?

    • I know… I have complained about the traffic issues since before the building of those town houses on Ghent… I was told that the studies were all proving that traffic would not be impacted… well… traffic IS IMPACTED… our city is already drowning in cars… just wait if Intensification continues…

      • Amazing how no one listens….It just does not make sense to us. We are drowning in very poor plans for our downtown. The congestion on New St., Lakeshore and everywhere in between is crazy. But no one sees it. We have not even got a real reason to be a Mobility Hub.

  18. Why would Council listen now? They haven’t been listening up to now. If you want your voice to be heard join ENGAGED CITIZENS OF BURLINGTON. This is a grass roots organization that has been formed to change the current culture at City Hall. This is not just about the over intensification of Brant Street, it includes all of Burlington. Councillors, staff, and residents need to stop acting as silos, we have to look at Burlington as a city. What effects the residents in one ward should be of concern to all the other residents of the city. Please visit our Facebook page ENGAGED CITIZENS OF BURLINGTON and join us in making this happen.

  19. I thought the job of staff was to implement policy determined by elected officials, not to MAKE policy. Am I missing something here?

What's your take?

Capital budget discussion begins Dec. 1; seeking additional transit & trail funds; operating budget at 4.19% increase

A commitment to respectful dialogue: focus on issues, not people