Thank you AKT.
City banking on waterfront development
By Tara Perkins and Peter Van Harten
The Hamilton Spectator
July 13th 2004
[i]The new $10-million Canada Marine Discovery Centre and the restored destroyer HMCS Haida are making waves on Hamilton's west waterfront.
The city is counting on the new attractions to spark development on the waterfront lands wrested from the former harbour commission in 2000.
There has been no shortage of grand ideas, from floating hotel-casinos to lakeside stadiums.
They never materialized.
But there is hope that a Canadian Music Hall of Fame, proposed by developer Jasper Kujavsky, could land on the waterfront.
Councillor Bill Kelly, chair of the planning and economic development committee, is meeting with Hamilton Port Authority CEO Keith Robson today to chart the progress of commercial opportunities. The plan is to sort out what's on the horizon and how it will happen.
"It's an exciting time for us," he said.
"The discovery centre and the Haida will be the two anchors for future development because people will see what has been invested already."
Robson said the five hectares of Pier 8 not being used by the Parks Canada discovery centre should become the "city's playground."
There's investment money out there from pension plans and other sources. Kelly said it's a matter of developing sound business plans to attract that cash.
The port authority used last month's Port Days event to show how it's moving the lands from marine-industrial to commercial-recreational use, he said.
The city took over the lands from the former Hamilton Harbour Commission in a three-way deal with the federal government, but the Port Authority has a lease for the next 22 years.
That makes them an interested party in any development.
Robson said any commercial partnership involving the city, the port and private interests will have to be viable and self-sustaining.
"The city doesn't have any money and we are not in the business of subsidizing anyone," he said.
Councillor Sam Merulla said it's an issue that still needs to be worked out. "There have been some tangles in discussions that need to be ironed out."
The two sides are trying to reach an agreement that will see both profit from newly developed lands.
Robson said progress is slower than the authority would like, "but we are moving forward.''
A partnership deal with private interests could involve revenue sharing with the city or a sub-lease arrangement, he said.
Former MP and heritage minister Sheila Copps brought the Canada Parks' discovery centre and restored Haida to the Hamilton waterfront.
The ship is already welcoming crowds and the centre opens Saturday.
The city has been making steady progress on reclaiming the waterfront for years.
Recreation has been the focus. The notable successes have been Bayfront Park and Pier 4 Park and there's also the waterfront trail. Councillors Chad Collins and Merulla say it's time to move beyond recreation.
They imagine a picturesque area like the Halifax waterfront, complete with bars, restaurants, clothing stores and boutiques.
"Hamilton has trailed other communities in waterfront development and we're just trying to catch up now," said Collins, chair of the Hamilton Waterfront Trust.
The trust has opened a Williams Coffee Pub kiosk in its Pier 8 building.
It plans to turn that into a full-service operation.
It also hopes to buy a ship that could be used for weddings and other special events.
"If you look at the landscape down there, it's probably the best view of Hamilton.
"You really feel like you're in another community and I don't think a lot of people have realized that we have so much to offer there in the west harbour," Collins said.
He said business developers have been lining up for the land. "From hotel operators to museum operators to large and small residential developers, I think everyone realizes there's great potential there and we just haven't tapped that resource in the past."
Merulla said the waterfront land "is going to be the catalyst for a significant revitalization."
"In Hamilton, we have been somewhat slow in that initiative, but we're in the position now where, once the actual planning is approved by council, we can start looking at not only commercial but also residential development."
Neil Everson, executive director of the city's economic development department, said he has heard from interested developers but wouldn't identify them.
He hopes significant projects will get underway next year.
Kelly said the Haida and discovery centre are "tremendous magnets" and catalysts for private recreational development.
"I was skeptical -- marine discovery, big deal -- but I was overwhelmed when I was there and it wasn't even finished yet."
Kelly said he met last week with Kujavsky about his plans for a Canadian Music Hall of Fame at Pier 8.
"We have to come to the table with people and say, 'Look at this proposal. We want you to invest in this'," he said.
Kelly is hopeful that commercial partnership opportunities can be injected into the Setting Sail land use study being done by the city.
The Setting Sail study began with a visioning exercise that proposed possible signature attractions.
Planners are now working on detailed waterfront plans for roads, housing and community facilities stretching from the High Level Bridge to Wellington Street.
The plan has encountered opposition from some residents who are concerned about increased traffic and undesirable development.
In addition, recreational boaters [/i]have expressed worries about the loss of access to the waterfront.