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Halton gets set to approve world-class waterfront plan for Burlington

Posted: May 26, 2015

A world-class waterfront will rise along Burlington Beach over the next 20-25 years

A world-class year-round lakeside park will rise along Burlington’s waterfront over the next 20 to 25 years in a plan presented this week to Regional Council committee members.

Nearly a decade in the making, final approval for the Master Plan for the Burlington Beach Regional Waterfront Park will be discussed next week when Council meets.

Projected to cost more than $51 million, the vibrant plan consists of six phases stretching about 3 kilometres from Spencer Smith Park, on the downtown waterfront, to the Burlington Canal on the Hamilton border.

The grandiose plan developed by a consultant team led by internationally-recognized BrookMcIllroy would consist of six distinct areas developed in two phases. The Region has had extensive consultation with the City of Burlington and Conservation Halton over the past 18 months.

“Five of the phases are to be developed within the next five to 10 years at a cost of about $31 million,” Mark Meneray, Regional Planning Commissioner, told Planning and Works committee members on Wednesday. This price includes the cost of hydro tower relocation and property acquisition. Financing will be included for discussion in the 2016 budget.

“An additional $20 million will be needed beyond the $31 million to develop the last phase,” Meneray said.

The hydro towers have been located on the beach since 1909. In 2013, Hydro One estimated the cost of relocating the towers would $8 to $12 million, the report indicated.

The proposed plan includes a re-configuration and re-alignment of Lakeshore Rd. in order to create one continuous public park.

“This is an extra-ordinary destination within the City of Burlington, the Region and the province,” Matt Reid, project manager for the proposed re-development, told committee members. He described it as a “bold, environmentally sustainable vision” that will become a destination point for the local residents, tourists, and cultural events and will generate significant economic benefit for the city, the Region and the province.

The six unique, but connected, areas are Spencer Smith Park, The Living Shoreline, The Strand, The Wind Beach, The Commons and The Skyway. The Commons will be the last to be developed. Each area is considered a destination location but all will be connected through trails, boardwalks and bike paths.

Spencer Smith Park – It will maintain its role as a formal park and a primary festival and event destination for the downtown for such attractions as Discovery Landing and annual festivals such as Ribfest and the Sound of Music. It includes the Brant St. Pier, a pond and children’s play area and separate bike and walking trails, an upgraded promenade, new lighting and special event space.

The Living Shoreline – Located immediately next to Spencer Smith Park, this area connects the formal park with the more natural aspects of Burlington Beach. Its strong cultural heritage will include a First Nations Interpretation Area directly across the street from the Joseph Brant Museum. It also includes an Aboriginal gas fire circle gathering place overlooking the water and non-motorized boat access areas. A new shoreline boardwalk will provide a natural vantage point for visitors.

The Strand – This traditional beach and swimming area includes children’s play and water-theme play areas, washrooms and change areas, another gas fire circle and a realignment of the existing walking trail. There will also be outdoor exercise areas, bicycle repair stations, bottle fill depots and non-motorized boat access.

The Wind Beach –This is envisioned to be a natural and educational area. Beach access will be available along with a Dune boardwalk and natural wooded protected trails.

The Commons – It will be used for small-scale cultural, festival events. It includes an artisan marketplace. A re-configured Lakeshore Rd. will create a friendly streetscape. Volleyball courts and lawn bowling facilities will be here along with a pond for remote control boating in the summer and skating in the winter. There will also be a patio over the water.

The Skyway and Federal Pier – Envisioned as the anchor of the park, this includes an active lift bridge and various marine interpretive areas and observation areas for Great Lakes ships entering the Burlington Canal. There will also be a direct cycling connection to Hamilton and upgrades to the federal pier.

Phase 1 includes all properties currently under public ownership so construction can begin as soon as the Region gives the green light. Phase 2 will begin afterwards and once the remaining 27 residential properties are purchased, projected at a cost of about $16 million over the next 20 to 25 years, Meneray said. Four properties have already been purchased.

The Region will have opportunities to change and scale-down the plan as it goes forward, Meneray said. Additional financial details will be presented at Council with another major update in July. One of the big concerns is who pays for the hydro tower relocation.

“This is an absolute gold mine…” Regional Chair Gary Carr told committee members. “This resource is located nowhere else. If we don’t do it right, one of the legacies of this Council will be that we didn’t do what we were supposed to do when we were supposed to do it.”

Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring said the city and the Region was “very fortunate” to have such a “wonderful asset” to develop.

“Our great quality of life will only be enhanced by further investment in this for generations to come,” Goldring told committee members. “This is a great project…”

Within a short walking distance of Burlington Beach are 1,800 parking spaces within municipal lots. Shuttle buses will be used between all lots and the six areas during peak hours. Another 368 parking spaces will be on site with another 35 on-street spots created.

Should Regional Council approve the plan next week the cost to support it would be reflected in the 2016 budget. It would require an additional $6.5 million in the first five years followed by another $14 million between 2021-25 with another $31.1 million over the final 15 years. This represents an annual increase of $340,000 in the first five years.