What the 22-storey Tivoli Proposal Means for James Street and Downtown

The Tivoli development posted new renderings Wednesday of their proposed 22-storey building at 108 James Street North.

The property is presently zoned for three-to-six stories, keeping with the character of the area.

Tivoli_Plan

It’s a bold rendering for a property that was sold to a charity – Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble – for $2 in 2006, received $144,906.02 in grants and loans from the City of Hamilton since that time, and was sold for $900,000 by the charity in 2013.

Amending Zoning Bylaw, Changing James Street

The plan will require an official plan amendment for the height, minimal setback, and parking variances.

If approved, the OPA will change the skyscape of Hamilton by dropping requirements for setbacks and neighbourhood character along James Street North, and potentially across the entire downtown.

Presently, zoning requires new buildings keep with the character of their surroundings, often requiring setbacks as height increases.

Balconies are not considered the front of the building, and often the setback is the balcony.

James as 22-Stories on Each Side?

If approved, this proposal will allow for similar 22-storey buildings on any similar sized James Street North commercial district property.

If the City denies similar exceptions to a developer, they will be able to successfully appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.

123 James rendering, showing height equal to existing streetscape (Used with permission)123 James rendering, showing height equal to existing streetscape (Used with permission)

For comparison, across the street – 123 James Street North – is an example of a new development integrating into the existing neighbourhood character, creating a visually appealing streetscape enhancing the vibrancy of the district.

The proposed Acclamation Condos at 181 James North shows how to increase the height of an existing streetscape.

Acclamation Condos AdvertisementAcclamation Condos Advertisement

With a much larger lot, the building was approved for six stories, with a setback for the top two floors, and the fourth storey at existing height.

Both are projects by developers with long-term stakes in sustaining the existing cultural character of James Street.

Design Review Panel

The proposal was not positively received by the City’s Design Review Panel, in a meeting which the public was banned from attending at the request of the developer’s agent.

The City’s Director of Planning agreed to the ban and developers concerns about public opposition to the project. (The City Manager stated this was a violation of policy and will never happen again.)

The Panel did not approve the proposal and it is scheduled to return to a future Design Review meeting.

We do not know why the Panel did not give its approval.

The City’s Director of Planning did not keep any documentation from the meeting.

In response to an Freedom of Information request for meeting documents, the City states they kept no records.

This is highly unusual. City staff are diligent in recording meetings and keep copies of all planning documentation – except in this case.

This development will be the first test of the design review process – will DRP improve the design or be ignored?

Is This The Final Proposal?

It’s not unheard of for developers to propose a larger building than they believe will be approved.

Once opposition forms to a proposal, a new lower height proposal – which is still greater than planning policy envisions – is brought forth by the developer as a compromise.

This will be a planning process to watch.

One of Many Developments

Hamilton no longer needs to be a beggar for development. We can choose to have good development.

In addition to the Acclamation Lofts, the Royal Connaught, and the completed Witton Lofts, there are numerous proposals in Downtown on desks at City Hall.

Vrancor is proposing a 12-storey building for Cannon near Wellington.

The condos proposed for the rear of the Lister Block are progressing in the Planning process.

With a larger lot, taller neighbouring buildings, and location at the centre of the downtown core, the Lister Block location is appropriate to tall buildings.

There are other properties closer to James Street that have submitted requests for Development Review Committee hearings, including some near the new GO Station.

It’s an exciting time for Hamilton, and the market conditions are clearly in place for us to choose our developments wisely.


Update: I should’ve put my lede into the article as it appears on my front page.Tivoli development is an ambitious project that, if approved, will change the character of James Street and how Hamilton developments integrate into existing streetscapes.

The question: What does Hamilton want to look like in twenty years?

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