The City of Hamilton is gearing up for a new tower along its waterfront that would be the tallest in the city. It's a move towards higher density for the growing southern Ontario city, but not all residents are enthused by the idea, saying the building will block sight lines.

The proposed tower, designed by architect Bruce Kuwabara, would reach 45 storeys in height -- two storeys more than Hamilton's current tallest building. The proposal comes as part of the redevelopment of over five hectares of land along the waterfront at Pier 8 into a new community. The tower is expected to occupy the northwest corner of the pier, contributing to the more than 1,600 residential units, 13,000 sq. m of commercial and institutional space, and over 1,400 parking spaces that the pier is set to have once the redevelopment is complete.

"What I envision the building adding to Hamilton is a work of architecture that is a landmark, a flagship, for Pier 8, but one that works at the scale of the bay and the tip of Lake Ontario," Kuwabara said.

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An initial cylindrical design was planned for the tower, but two other options were later added in at the request of the City and were recently were presented by Kuwabara during a Design Review Panel.

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The second design option would see the exterior of the building have a series of curves, giving a floral-like shape from a birds-eye view. The third design, entitled Lily, has a more organic form thanks to its asymmetric and abstract shape.

"From my perspective, the variations are really quite meaningful because they really change the character of the building," Kuwabara said. "And frankly, they affect the experience for occupants of what it's like to live in a building that has a wave like profile versus, you know, the Lily, which has a softer and flatter set of curves. But I think all of them share the idea that they would be very clear and very simple forms."

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The tower's height and prominence on the waterfront means it will be visible not just from Hamilton but from Burlington as well.

"You can see this tower from points around the bay, from LaSalle Park, and from downtown if you're looking towards the north end," Kuwabara said. "The tower is a kind of landmark no matter what, whether it's the Lily, the Waves or the Cylinder. That's the aspiration, that the tower actually will become part of the image of the entire city, and it's in a very intentional way, not just, you know, because it's 45 storeys."

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Although it will certainly be a new focal point for the city, not all residents are on board. Ahead of a February 16 Planning Committee meeting at which the project was discussed, a number of petitions against the tower were submitted. One resident, Tal Srulovicz, says that the city has not properly considered the impact such a large development will have on the surrounding neighbourhood.

"I would like to understand why the city has completely forgotten about the residents of Guise St. -- people that have been living along the waterfront for years," Srulovicz wrote. "The interference with the enjoyment of our property has been completely neglected as part of this redevelopment. Many of us will no longer have a beautiful view and the amount of traffic that will be directed to Guise St will also have a huge impact on our enjoyment."

Srulocicz also raised the issue of shadows that the tower will cast over nearby streets.

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Others, however, including the North End Neighbourhood Association and Harbour West Neighbours Inc., have voiced support for the project.

"Approving this single signature / landmark building significantly lowers the development density on the rest of Pier 8 allowing housing that will attract families with children," the North End Neighbourhood Association wrote in a letter to the Planning Committee. "The benefit of families to the neighbourhood will provide support to services, restaurants, education, retail and recreation."


Kuwabara emphasized this point, noting that although the building itself is high-density, the level of density for the entire parcel of land has not been changed.

"That's what zoning allows," Kuwabara said. "It is not adding, it's not a land grab and an increase in density. It's not that at all. In fact, it's a stabilization of that density. It's just really the distribution of those units over Pier 8."

The design team has taken steps to ensure that the tower itself, although large, will have the least amount of impact on its surrounding environment.

"Some people said it's going to be an eyesore, which I totally disagree with," Kuwabara said. "We're trying to make an elegant building, we're trying to design a really good building. The very form of it is aerodynamic. We're really concerned about mitigating wind through design, and we're interested in creating comfortable outdoor amenity spaces."

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No approvals have been given to the project as of yet, and Hamilton's Design Review Panel will once again discuss the proposal at their upcoming April 27 meeting. The review panel will provide recommendations but the ultimate say lies with City Council.

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