By Marcus Bowman, Metrolinx
You could almost see Hamilton from high atop the Bay-Wellington Tower as ULI Toronto members gathered for breakfast at the host offices of McMillan LLP. The expansive view of Lake Ontario’s shore was a fitting backdrop for an event focused on the waterfront of the GTHA’s western anchor and its ever-growing attractiveness to the Toronto real estate and development community. The buzz about Hamilton was palpable among ULI members with Toronto District Council Executive Director Richard Joy noting that events about Hamilton have been some of the organization’s most sought after over the past year.
Presenter Chris Phillips from the City of Hamilton’s West Harbour Redevelopment Project delivered on the enthusiasm. His tour of the Hamilton Waterfront highlighted the unique opportunities available down the lakeshore and focused on the extensive work done to transform the area. Building on Waterfront Toronto’s model of leading with public investments, the City of Hamilton has spent years carefully lining up the pieces for high quality development.
Hamilton’s hard work is clearly starting to pay off as Phillips was able rhyme off a long list of the area’s growing amenities. These now include improved transit, a new GO station, extensive waterfront parkland and regional attractions that promise to make the area the front porch of the entire city. In addition to the showpiece amenities, Hamilton has also focused closely on the fundamentals, providing servicing, zoning and extensive public consultation on the plans to date to ensure a smooth process and a high calibre development proposal.
The real pitch of Philip’s presentation, however, was to highlight the coming release of an RFP for one of the waterfront’s prime redevelopment parcels. Leveraging the value of ULI’s breadth of professional talent, Phillips was able to do a kind of informal market sounding of the coming deal. As presentation gave way to discussion, valuable insights were shared that may help with the deal’s eventual success.
Having begun in earnest with the environmental remediation plans of the 1980s, Hamilton’s new waterfront has been a long time coming. On a mild January morning in Toronto’s financial district, surrounded by the membership of ULI, it took another small step forward.