Bruce Kuwabara Designing Signature 45-Storey Tall Building for Pier 8

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Renowned architect Bruce Kuwabara is designing a 45-storey signature tall building for the proposed Pier 8 redevelopment as part of a Local Planning Appeal Tribunal settlement with Herman Turkstra and Harbour West Neighbours Inc.

If built, the building will be the largest in Hamilton measured from base to top, but the 43-storey Landmark Place at 100 Main Street East will remain Hamilton’s tallest building in the lower city by geodetic height.

Kuwabara’s proposed building will have a geodetic height of 224 metres, Landmark Place’s geodetic height is 226 metres. (The Escarpment height at the foot of Hughson Street is 192 metres)

The difference is significant. If the City approves a building with a greater geodetic height than Landmark Place, it creates a precedent which can be used by other developers to challenge the Urban Hamilton Official Plan undermining the City’s array of zoning bylaws and secondary plans.

KPMB Architects

Geodetic Height Diagram for the proposed Pier 8 Tall Building measured against Landmark Place

The plans for the building were announced tonight during a public meeting of the North End Neighbourhood Association, which was held online.

Kuwabara grew up in Hamilton’s North End, and has shown a special passion for this redevelopment project as lead architect for Waterfront Shores, the development consortium which won the City of Hamilton run competition to redevelop the Pier 8 site.

The latest changes to the development plan for Pier 8 are the result of negotiations between the various parties following Ontario Municipal Board appeals launched by Turkstra, Harbour West Neighbours (the neighbourhood appellants), Bunge Canada, and Parrish & Heimbecker Ltd.

Kuwabara’s proposal forms part of the settlement between the neighbourhood appellants, Waterfront Shores, and the City of Hamilton. The settlement was approved at the Ontario Municipal Board.

It requires a new Official Plan Amendment and new Zoning By-Law Amendment to be approved by Council. The new OPA and ZBA could be appealed by other affected parties.

All parties to the settlement committed to public engagement to ensure support for their agreement, and to avoid a separate appeal in the future.

(The industrial appellants’ appeals are ongoing, and involve different issues related to the interaction of the proposed residential development on the east side of Pier 8 with the Hamilton Port’s industrial operations. They are not parties to this settlement.)

KPMB Architects

The proposed 45-storey building visual impact concept from the York Blvd High Level Bridge

The proposed tall building will see the density of the remainder of the large Pier 8 development decreased while at the same time “substantially” increasing the number of family units, says Calvin Brook of Brook McIlroy.

The City retained Brook McIlroy as independent consultants to produce the Pier 7+8 Urban Design Study, and had them review the changes submitted to the LPAT.

He says the building will show “something new and interesting is happening in Hamilton” and serve as a beacon to showcase the good things happening at Pier 8.

Brook says the proposed tall building will contain up to 400 units of housing. He says both the density and building design parameters enables family size units in the top third of the building above the 30th floor.

Up to 400 units, this enables additional family units because above 31 storeys “The scale of the other buildings will have fewer units”, Brook says. This enable more parking in the buildings to alleviate parking pressures”. There will be need for visitor parking for people coming from across Hamilton.

One of the key parts of the OMB settlement agreement is the City must providing sufficient parking at Pier 8 for all activities at the Pier. All parking needed for uses between Piers 5 to 8 must be north of Guise Street as part of the agreement.

KPMB Architects

Conceptual floor plans for floors 31-45.

KPMB Architects

Conceptual floor plans for living floors 30 and below.

Kuwabara says this site is unique on the Great Lakes because it is surrounded by water on three sides, offering him as an architect many elements to complement in his design.

Noting he lives in a tall building himself, Kuwabara says making the building family friendly is important to him.

Tonight’s online public meeting was the first of many consultation sessions the City of Hamilton plans to hold in the coming months says Alissa Mahood, Senior Project Manager – Community Planning & GIS in the City’s Planning Division.

Mahood said in normal circumstances, the City would’ve unveiled the plan in a large public forum with much advertisement. Due to COVID, the City cannot hold physical public meetings. Mahood said the City did not wish to delay releasing information to the public, and all parties agreed to consult the North End Neighbourhood Association as part of one of NENA’s regular meetings.

Around 75 people joined tonight’s online meeting, held using the Zoom platform.

Mahood says the City is working on more engagement plans and will be particularly focused on reaching people for whom internet video meetings are not an accessible platform.

The slides Mahood presented to NENA are available here.

Bruce Kuwabara / KPMB Architects

A conceptual design for a 45-storey tall building at Hamilton’s Pier 8 redevelopment designed by Bruce Kuwabara and shown to a meeting of the North End Neighbourhood Association on May 20, 2020

Production Details
v. 1.0.1
First published: May 20, 2020
Last edited: May 20, 2020
Author: Joey Coleman

Edit Record
v. 1.0.0 original version
v. 1.0.1 minor correction - added that Landmark Place would remain the tallest building "in the lower city" by geodetic height. Thanks to a comment on Reddit for pointing out buildings upon the escarpment have taller geodetic heights. 

22 thoughts on “Bruce Kuwabara Designing Signature 45-Storey Tall Building for Pier 8

  1. Amazingly quick story. One point I would add is that by settling the case under the guidance of the former OMB Board Chair as mediator, the settlement provides significantly more family housing on Pier 8. By moving 400 units in to the one building at the water, the density of the remainder of Pier 8 will be reduced with increased family friendly housing because the total number of units, including the new building, does not change. The unanimous report of the NENa Planning Committee can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/ybckz7m6

  2. Herman, the part I don’t understand is why families would choose to live in a 45 storey tower instead of a house, as they will likely be the same cost? I expect this will just be a speculative investment vehicle like most other condo buildings.

    8 storeys to 45 is a paradigm shift for the development.

    • Huge shift, one which I don’t think I’m the only one attempting to predict what it could mean.

    • The issue of family friendly housing was at the heart of the appeal. Setting Sail was built on the concept of having between 750 and 1000 dwelling units on Pier 8 with a height limit of 8 stories.. This would have provided approximately 400 dwelling units attractive to families with children. The ration of singles to family friendly units is critical for issues such as school age population, recreational facilities, traffic and parking. After the City Manager, Chris Murray, took the process inside City Hall, the staff attention turned to developers and the result in January 2014 was a Council decision to move ahead with 1600-1800 units. Because the area and height are fixed, this meant the removal of most of the family housing. That was the heart of the appeal. What the settlement did was to take some of the units in the original scheme and move them into the signature building. This reduces the intensity of the rest of buildings on Pier 8 and should produce up to 400 family friendly units. Some of these will be at street level. Some possibly in stacked townhouses. Some in condo’s. The main thing is that children will be there, integrating the project in to the neighbourhood and continuing the demand for our schools and rec facilities.

  3. If this plan goes ahead could it please be solitary ,like the Marina Towers in Chicago. I would hate to see the waterfront crowded with buildings cutting the populace off from the water. The waterfront is an important part and asset to Hamilton life. Also for families, schools have been closing downtown just when we need to increase walkability . I too am worried that this will be for investment not families.

    • Exactly – why does a city need a 45-story structure right on the water obstructing view of the water. This is poor planning and does not reflect this City. This is just supporting some individuals’ personal agendas.

  4. Odd, typically higher density is grouped together to contain impacts and allow for common synergies. In this case, only one (1) 45-storey highrise is being proposed out on its own, in the middle of low/med density.

    In its current proposed location, the scale will kind of appear like that of the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai. This does not reflect the City’s Urban Design or Character vision for the area.

    Interesting to see what Hamilton Council does, regardless it will set precedent for future developments in the Lower City.

    • This will go in front of the Design Review Panel at some point, possibly June 11. It will be very interesting to hear the Panel’s thoughts on this.

    • For those of us who were dedicated to ensure that development on Pier 8 was mid-rise, the concept of a 45 story building was challenging. However, Calvin Brooks came back with the concept of a signature building that would be more than just another high-rise. There are many examples of signature buildings coming to be part of the brand of the City. The North End Neighbourhood Association spent careful thoughtful time on this idea and after studying it, unanimously recommended it to the next NENa general members meeting, where it was also approved. What is achievable here is to construct a building which is more than just a housing unit and becomes part of the spirit of the City, the neighbourhood and the harbour. It is an attempt to do something that is clearly not mediocre or average or standard or normal. It is an attempt to touch the spirits of the people who see it, from the bay bridges, from the mountain brow, from the GO station, from the streets of our neighbourhood. The goal is clearly not just to add to Hamilton’s housing stock but to create a feature of the City.

  5. Tragic to see another push by developer to monetise and monopolise what was public land for a song and little return to the public. Its like no one in Hamilton planning dept has ever seen the disaster that is Toronto’s waterfront. By allowing larger and larger condo’s with next to no real affordable (ie geared to income) housing being built, all thats happening here is what should be a public teasure (the waterfront) being given away for private profit. Nice sleight of hand getting the former chair of the OMB, who never saw a high rise or developer it didn’t like, being the “mediator”, why not just have one of the investors be the mediator – it would save costs.

    • The mediator only assists the parties to reach an agreement, mostly by providing their thoughts on how a LPAT adjudicator might view the parties positions if they went forward in a contested hearing.
      The goal of mediation is to prevent a costly contested hearing.
      This is definitely a surprising settlement, and we don’t know what was said behind closed doors. One can definitely have strong opinions against the provincial planning framework that the LPAT operates under and enforces.
      The mediator has to be agreed to by all parties, and it is the LPAT which provides mediation as a service — more cost effective for the provincial treasury than administering hearings.

  6. I hope that this does not go ahead. It will ruin the waterfront and is it really a good idea to cram 400 units into a small space? Overcrowding during a pandemic. We need to change the type of decision making that happens at higher levels to ensure good health of the population.

  7. Could we maybe build something innovative/forward-thinking there instead? Something with greenery on the outer structure, perhaps? Instead of what is essentially just another glass and concrete box…

    • Given that in summer prevailing winds come off the lake making it downstream from the steel and flour mills, I guess that open balconies are not practical. Glassed patios might give light without pollution.

  8. And this is a compromise, How? The original Waterfront Shores development will see a decrease in height by 2 or 3 storeys and that number will be translated into a single 45 storey tower. The original design can and should accommodate family units as promised in the tower. It had a lovely waterfront village vibe as far as I can make out. If the city is going to allow this to proceed can we at least allow for 40 or 50 or 60 storey towers in the core? Or 12 stories at the new West Harbour GO Station? These Mid Rise buildings at Pier 8 make sense. They’re much like the building across the street at Guise and James.

    • Interesting thoughts on planning heights and approvals elsewhere in Ward 2; it is going to be very interesting to see how the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal views this plan when it is cited by other appeals in Ward 2. I have no predictions.

  9. Just another way for investors to bring more congestion onto our waterfront to line their pockets.
    Is there no thought to the homeowners who have bought and have lived on the waterfront for the view and peaceful enjoyment for so many years? That said view is to be completely transformed over the next few years which will already be impacting their view. Respect the waterfront!

    • Or the rest of Hamilton wanting to visit the waterfront? This is also the worst gentrification project yet, turning space for ordinary folks into an expensive enclave. In the last public space on the Great Lakes, using his own words.

  10. I think it is best to think of a development like this as an invasive species on the shoreline, a kind of 45 storey phragmites, as it were. Runners will spread the news to other developers and the water’s edge will be choked with gigantic invaders, throwing shade on the native species. Seriously, what a dreadful precedent, not only for the northend but for tall building strictures and development in Hamilton in general. I’m open to be convinced otherwise, but at first blush, man, like phragmites, this should be killed with fire.

    • Way too tall, and out of proportion to not only the land but to the people. I think it will make the area way too dense…what have we learned about density from this pandemic about healthy ways to live? We have done a lot of sailing on the east coast of Mainer and what always strikes me is that the harbours, which are initially at sea level, rise gently and allow a person to feel “more at home” As she enters the landscape. I favour a more human scale, just as I favour small stores where one is not overwhelmed and dwarfed. I hate to think of what the shoreline will look like in the future – will it be blocked with more high rises? Does Hamilton need a signature tower on the water? I would rather see signature pieces downtown.

  11. I doubt that Waterfront Shores original proposal would have been accepted with a 45 story tower. That space was originally proposed as a public amenity.
    The designer ” Bruce Kuwabara”is quoted saying “Low rise housing is characteristic of the North End and allows niebours to cultivate a sense of community”.
    If this tower goes forward it is contray to all the planning and public engagement of the past 20 years. A shamefull eroson of pulic trust.

  12. The density, if allowed and the p’recedent’ that will be set, should be a serious concern.

    I live in Toronto and have watched extreme over development in the old railways lines area . I worry that if there was ever a need to evacuate, that over population would make safety. impossible.
    Before a new prrecedent is set, please come and see the Lakeshore Spadina /Bathurst to Yonge Street Development has done to the waterfront. Think ‘future’ development and consider if this is really what Hamilton’s north end should look like after precedents are set.

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