Photo from Silhouette Photo Archives
On Sept. 4, the City of Hamilton Planning Committee approved a zoning amendment application for a new two-storey Columbia International College student residence. This is the latest development in a project that stretches back four years.
The residence will be built on the corner of Main Street West and Longwood Road and consists of an 18-storey tower and a 16-storey tower building connected by a four-story podium. It will mainly serve as a residence, though it will have other commercial and recreational uses as well.
The developer, John Lecluse, is optimistic about the project going forward.
“We’re hoping to have quite a bit of ground moved a year from now,” said Lecluse.
The primary barrier to the project was a possible erosion hazard that could affect the Chedoke Creek valley system. However, the Hamilton Conservation Authority board gave their approval on the grounds that certain conditions are met.
The project parallels McMaster’s plans for a new residence on Main Street West, which began last year and is still in the planning stages. That building is planned to stand between Dalewood Avenue and Forsyth Avenue.
Some community concerns with the CIC project, such as increased car and foot traffic, increased noise, and the shadowing effect of tall buildings, have also been raised in light of McMaster’s proposal.
However, according to Ainslie Wood/Westdale Community Association president Ira Rosen, one of the key differences between the projects is that, unlike the McMaster building, which will stand over houses on Traymore Avenue, the CIC building is not directly next to homes.
“There are no houses that are going to be affected by those [CIC] buildings because it’s right at the corner of [Main Street West] and [Longwood Road S],” said Rosen. “The closest permanents live just across the street. It’s not the same as the location the university is planning. The university location is literally on a side street where there are houses.”
Gord Arbeau, McMaster director of communications, said that McMaster has recently amended the building design to try and address some issues with the previous design, including parking, available amenities activities and the increased flow of pedestrians. It is worth noting that the current design has 90 percent of the building at ten stories, lower than the originally proposed thirteen stories.
“We’re seeking more feedback,” said Arbeau. “We’ll be presenting the plan to the city and the city planners and we look to finalize and fine-tune that design in the next month or so, and then we would envision submitting another application to the city sometime thereafter.”
The university is hoping to begin construction next year and have the building open for August 2021.
The AWWCA will meet to discuss the latest changes to the McMaster proposal at their annual general meeting on Sept. 17. Rosen said they are hoping to find a middle ground with the university and are open to development as long as both parties can work together.
Those involved with the McMaster project plan to continue their consultations with community groups such as the AWWCA and attend regular meetings help by the president’s advisory committee on community relations.
While McMaster has no affiliation with CIC, Arbeau noted that, in both cases, there is increased development along Main Street West.
“I think what we’re seeing in Hamilton, especially with the [light rail transit], is a desire for the city to intensify development along lanes especially on Main Street, which is where the LRT will run,” said Arbeau.
As explained by Arbeau, both housing projects are being planned for with the potential construction of LRT in mind. LRT not only impacts the construction of new buildings because of the potential widening of Main Street West, but also represents a potentially more convenient way to commute across the city, especially for those close to Main Street West.
Both McMaster and CIC are hoping to alleviate student housing shortages by constructing large buildings along Main Street West, a trend that will likely continue across the city. The challenge for these plans will be to develop in a sustainable, responsible way that considers the perspectives of neighbouring communities.