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Old Posted Mar 3, 2017, 3:27 PM
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How tall is too tall for Hamilton?

How tall is too tall for Hamilton?

Hamilton Spectator By Natalie Paddon 03 March 2017

A well-known local developer is moving toward building his final – and tallest – instalment in a five-highrise, multimillion-dollar venture that has changed the skyline of downtown Hamilton.

Vrancor Group, headed up by Darko Vranich, recently received conditional site plan approval for a 32-storey luxury apartment building with commercial and retail space at the corner of George and Caroline streets.

The building, 20/22 George Street, will be Vranich's highest yet and, at 106 metres, is expected to be among the tallest buildings downtown when complete.

The first of Vrancor's neighbourhood structures, Staybridge Suites, opened in 2012. Since then, the company has followed suit with Homewood Suites – located on Bay Street South – along with highrise condominium project 150 Main St. W. and Bella Tower apartments, which are right around the corner on Main Street West.

They're part of a growing cluster of highrises – proposed, in development and built – popping up around the core as interest in downtown living continues to rise.

The demand for height has ignited discussion on the issue and prompted the city to develop a Tall Building Study, which was released in draft form last spring.

But how tall is too tall for Hamilton?

There isn't a black-and-white answer, most experts agree.

"The mantra I always use is 'density without design is disaster,'" says city planning director Steve Robichaud. "If you do it successfully, you don't even know the building is there."

For Robichaud, context is key when it comes to planning these structures. In which neighbourhood will it be built? What impact will it have on traffic?

The city's study, which came about as a way to evaluate the impact of tall buildings locally, tries to take these factors into account.

It's broken down by downtown neighbourhoods because height can affect areas differently, said Alissa Mahood, a senior planner with the city who authored the report.

"Downtown is our urban growth centre," she said. "We want to see intensification there.

"But there are all these other things we need to consider."

Things like monitoring how tall buildings could impact emergency service response times, making sure to maintain parkland and community gathering spaces, and ensuring new construction doesn't block views of the Mountain, Mahood added.

The city also considers the impact that shadows created by buildings will have on public spaces below, and how those could be minimized by designs incorporating step-backs and terraces.

"Architecturally, if they're designed appropriately, we can have really great spaces," Mahood said.

When gathering feedback for the Tall Building Study, a couple of the same points kept coming up, Mahood said.

"Generally, the public was saying, 'We are OK with tall buildings, but they have to be respectful of the neighbourhood.'"

Residents voiced loudly and clearly that new developments should not be built taller than the escarpment so as not to block their view, Mahood said.

"Respecting that height" is something that is reflected in the tall building guidelines, she said.

On the whole, Hamilton's tall buildings are not so tall when compared to other municipalities. While Toronto's highest structure is the CN Tower, its tallest habitable building is the 72-storey First Canadian Place, which was built in 1975.

Head west on the highway and you'll reach Absolute World – better known as the Marilyn Monroe Towers – in Mississauga. One tower has 56 floors; the other has 50.

Move outside Canada, and you'll find the world's tallest building in Dubai, stretching 163 storeys high.

Tall buildings contribute to the vibrancy of a city by showing it's a happening place, says a professor at the University of Waterloo's school of planning.

"It's important for a city to have a skyline," said Pierre Filion. "It shows that it's a place of action and it's a place of urban intensity."

Overall, Filion believes too much emphasis is placed on the height of a building when the focus should be on what's happening at ground level.

"How often do you go up and look at what the top of the building looks like?"

Filion cites the example of Second Avenue in Manhattan, which is essentially surrounded by apartment buildings 30 storeys and often higher.

But at street level there are coffee shops, grocery stores and bakeries.

One concern often raised is that when you build up, you lose the sense of a neighbourhood, but not so in this case, Filion argues.

"You do have the feeling that you are in a neighbourhood because of what's happening at the ground level despite the presence of those very tall buildings."

That's not to say there aren't factors that need to be taken into account when considering tall buildings in residential neighbourhoods, like their impact on privacy and traffic, Filion said.

But some believe certain neighbourhoods are no place for tall buildings at all.

A proposal for a 19-storey residential building to be constructed near Stoney Creek Optimist Park was recently shot down at the city's planning committee, despite planning staff recommending its approval.

One of the issues raised with respect to the 219-unit building at 860 Queenston Rd. was that residents would have to use the same entrance as nearby Battlefield Plaza to the west of the property.

But height – and what that would mean in terms of density for the area – was the main concern about the proposal, which recommended a structure several storeys higher than what is currently permitted at that site.

"Stoney Creek is not the place, especially in the older areas," ward Coun. Doug Conley said at the January meeting.

Despite tall buildings typically being clustered downtown, Stoney Creek has a handful of its own already. A few are sprinkled along the waterfront on Green Road and others teetering around the 15-storey mark are situated in the Riverdale community in nearby east Hamilton.

Other areas of the city – the Mountain, Westdale and Durand – have their own small pockets of tall structures, too.

Height is a popular way to achieve density as planners work to intensify urban centres as per the province's 2005 Places to Grow Act, Filion said. For developers, building up is the most lucrative way to do that, he added.

But Hamilton's tallest building was built long before this provincial legislation came into play.

The Century 21 building – now called Landmark Place – was built by Alfonso Frisina and is more than 40 storeys high at the corner of Main Street East and Catharine Street South.

Frisina, who arrived from Italy in 1950, fought hard for financing, but once complete, the building wowed the city. Champagne and shrimp were served at a topping-off party held in February 1974.

On the day he finished the tower, he was near tears.

"To me and my family, this is the Empire State Building of Hamilton," he is quoted as saying at the time.

But receptions are not always so warm nowadays.

Nearby municipality Burlington is currently locked in a battle with a local developer before the Ontario Municipal Board over a proposed 26-storey condo to be built downtown and near the lakefront.

The city, which has faced similar discussions as Hamilton around building height and developed its own tall building guidelines, believes the project represents "overdevelopment" and does not reflect "good planning."

Coun. Marianne Meed Ward, who represents the ward where the condo tower would be built, is of the opinion that shorter, less dense developments make for a better community and it's up to the municipality to preserve this standard.

"We can have developments that are taller without being so tall that they make our community unliveable and unrecognizable," she said. "We don't want to be hyperintensified."

For her, Burlington's height should be concentrated around its GO stations, where there is ample access to transit and other amenities like grocery stores, but not downtown.

"Tall buildings don't belong everywhere, and that's got to be really clear," she said.

npaddon@thespec.com

905-526-2420 | @NatatTheSpec

http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/newt...stthread&f=285
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2017, 3:42 PM
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Century 21 is a a hideous ode to the 70's but it's height is not it's problem. Hamilton could probably use more 30-40 storey buildings but realistically this is a 15-20 storey city. The biggest problems downtown are the one story buildings(not houses) and the empty parking lots in premium locations(Main and Bay, James and King). The Augusta/Jackson Street area is as bad if not worse than the Rebecca/Wilson area for desolation, but that just means lots of room to grow!
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2017, 4:16 PM
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Until it reaches the heavens than it's tall enough lol

But seriously anything south of Aberdeen I think is the only place where height limit should be, close to the escarpment.
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2017, 4:45 PM
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"The Empire State Building of Hamilton." That's a meme for us skyscraper geeks if there ever was one.
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2017, 5:31 PM
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Hamilton could use may one building taller than Landmark Place, but anything shorter than it should be fine in the downtown.
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Old Posted Mar 3, 2017, 10:37 PM
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I dont think that a few buildings taller than Landmark place would really affect the views from the escarpment ... it would definitely be nice to see some skyline changing buildings in the downtown area just to reflect the change that this city is going through and bring some attention to our skyline from the QEW (skyway) for all the people who typically don't even see Hamilton when speeding by .... i agree that it would have to be done properly and should definitely have architectural interest - the shadow casting issue to me really is just a non issue ... unless it does cast shadows onto parks - just my opinion
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Old Posted Mar 4, 2017, 12:51 AM
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Even if its 60 stories high, when you are at sam lawrence park, they all look short..
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Old Posted Mar 4, 2017, 6:15 AM
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A "wall" of 50-storey buildings blocking the view from the escarpment to the harbour and vice versa would be something to energetically protest.

A forest of 20 and 30 storey towers (among quality mid-rises) with a few of 40, 50, or more would be interesting, whether viewed from the waterfront or the brow. Especially if they're standout designs. Signature towers should be the exception, if they're exceptional.

I think the market will dictate what heights are the debate of the day (30-35 floors seems to be the current standard) but there should not be any kind of restriction on a future new tallest or taller without taking the literal big picture into context.
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Old Posted Mar 4, 2017, 5:17 PM
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The physical article had some nice graphics on the existing tallest. I was surprised at how late the Martinique was built (1984). I always thought there wasn't much built after the 70s (apart from the Bentley) until relatively recently.
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Old Posted Mar 6, 2017, 8:52 PM
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I'd like an observation tower, taller than the escarpment with views of Lake, harbour and above the mountain.
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Old Posted Mar 6, 2017, 10:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by realcity View Post
I'd like an observation tower, taller than the escarpment with views of Lake, harbour and above the mountain.
I like this idea. Everything else can be built shorter than it
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Old Posted Mar 6, 2017, 11:00 PM
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How tall is the escarpment? It would be awesome if an observation tower were tall enough that one could see Buffalo/Niagara Falls in one direction and Toronto in the other. Couldn't it be an actual building with an observation deck at the top?
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Old Posted Mar 6, 2017, 11:33 PM
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If people want wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding area, why not just go to Sam Lawrence Park?
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Old Posted Mar 7, 2017, 4:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Awesomesauce View Post
If people want wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding area, why not just go to Sam Lawrence Park?
The guy is trying to point out the view of the top of the escarpment, just like how you see downtown from the escarpment.. A tower that can see the whole Hamilton 360 degrees, higher than the escarpment.

A tower that can see all the way to rymal rd.

Last edited by Rg2016; Mar 7, 2017 at 4:58 PM.
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Old Posted Mar 8, 2017, 8:09 PM
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All I want is enough of a skyline on the mountain that the city can be seen before you enter it. It's so cool heading into Winnipeg or Calgary and you see the skyline before you hit the suburbs.
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Old Posted Mar 10, 2017, 5:43 AM
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tower with a casino and entertainment. like Sky Bar in the Stratosphere
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