By Kevin Werner, News Staff
It will take about $40 million in capital investments by the city to help transform the Hamilton Waterfront into a residential and commercial oasis that could within 10 years attract nearly half-a-billion dollars in private investments and millions of dollars of needed tax revenue for the city.
But that will only be the starte of creating the “massive” $130-million commercial and residential development strategy that has been recommended in the city’s own waterfront master plan. Council has already approved nearly $16 million in capital money that has been used between 2012 to 2014, including about $7 million in the 2014 budget. But councillors will also have to discuss a 10-year financing strategy, with a special emphasis within the next four years, where about $39.17 million in net cost will be needed to make the waterfront “development ready” by 2017.
The city will need to pay about $13 million of the $39 million initially improve the existing sanitary and storm sewers, roads, sidewalks and street light, which will help to make the waterfront from piers five to eight development ready.
But the longer term economic prospective are “transformative,” said Chris Phillips, senior advisor in the city’s planning department, to Hamilton that will mean $470 million in private sector investment, 1,600 residential units built, 13,000 square feet of leasable commercial and retail space available, and the potential for $7.5 million in new municipal tax revenue annually.
“There is no municipal tax revenue on these properties today,” he said.
Philips said the city will get the $7.5 million tax revenue after the build out in 10 years. But the nearly half-billion private investment is a sound estimate to expect from the private sector to invest in the plan, he said.
“This is the future of our city,” said Mountain councillor Tom Jackson. “This is the stuff that is changingHamilton(and) talk about a world-class city.”
Over the last number of years city staff have been, as Phillips said, establishing the foundation to jump start the development of the waterfront lands.
“So much of the things we are doing are getting the dominos in the right order,” said Phillips.
The city, for instance, he said, is expected to take full control of piers 7 and 8 by this year. Parks Canada will continue to own its small portion of land on Pier 8. In addition, the city is scheduled to replace the wavebreak structure, and continue shoreline protection work over the next four years. Upgrades to the marina are scheduled to be completed by 2018.
Phillips said the timing schedule could still be shaken because some of the studies are beyond the city’s control. Before construction can begin, he said, there needs to be an environmental assessment and geotech studies done; re-locating the existing three pipelines, servicing issues, and required regulatory approvals from other levels of government and agencies that need to be given.
“Some of this plan can’t be expedited,” said Phillips.
Phillips is calling the waterfront development, a “game changer” for the city. But of more significance is the city’s proposed public outreach strategy is to convince Hamiltonians, including residents in the surrounding area, that it will benefit them, said Phillips.
“This is not just a downtown development,” he said, “This is everybody’s waterfront.”
Mayor Bob Bratina said, though, that remediating some of the existing lands could prove troublesome. He suggested the city create a “blue ribbon” task force that would examine brownfield lands.
“If you dig a hole find out what’s in there, you might be surprised (what is found),” he said.
Councillors applauded the strategy, but they were adamant that the public has to be able to use the waterfront.
“All our residents need to have access to the waterfront,” said Flamborough councillor Judi Partridge.
Bratina suggested the city may want to examine makingVictoria Avenue NorthandWellington Street Northinto two-way streets to help ease the potential access problems for the area.
Dundascouncillor Russ Powers also emphasized the point suggesting staff identify the final plan’s outlook and then work backwards so the city gets what it wants.
“We need to look at the end result,” he said.
Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson said there could be future conflicts between the residents who live in the north end neighbour, and tourists and other citizens who drive to the waterfront. He said with 1,600 development units that will translate into about 3,000 vehicles, contributing to existing and accessing issues to the waterfront.
Phillips said further traffic studies will be conducted, but he reminded politicians the North End Neighbourhood traffic plan examined adding more residential and commercial space within the area.
“The traffic pattern will continue to be the traffic pattern in and out,” said Phillips.