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Looking for the Right Buyer

Hamilton West Harbour redevelopment

Nov. 9, 2016
By Leah Wong

Moving forward on its plan to redevelop its West Harbour, the City of Hamilton is developing a framework for the sale of Pier 8 lands for private mixed-use development with at least 5 per cent affordable ownership housing.

Last week Hamilton general issues committee recommended council approve a framework for selling the Pier 8 lands, which Mayor Fred Eisenberger says shows the city wants development that is socially responsible and sustainable. The framework targets a sole consortium and requires the inclusion of affordable units. Council will consider committee’s recommendation later today.

“This is really Hamilton’s opportunity to do the creative, innovative, urban design and landmark development that speaks to what we want to be as a city going forward,” said Eisenberger. “It truly is a city building opportunity that can incorporate all the hallmarks of what we want to be.”

Based on the council-approved design vision, the city is seeking to divide the Pier 8 lands to include public open space and nine blocks to be sold to private developers. [See May 25 issue of NRU GTA.]

Hamilton planning and economic development senior advisor Chris Phillips told committee that 42.6 per cent - about 5.44 hectares - of Pier 8 is slated for private development, while 38.6 per cent is reserved for open space. Staff expects to present its zoning by-law amendment and draft plan of subdivision applications to planning committee for consideration in December.

The city retained Deloitte’s national real estate team to assist in developing a strategy for the sale.

Deloitte national real estate leader Sheila Botting told committee that the principles set through this process will help guide the city’s decision about which developer to work with and ensure that the city’s long-term vision is achieved.

Committee endorsed Deloitte’s recommendation to use a request for qualification process, rather than going straight to a request for proposals. Botting said that an RFQ process will allow more input from the development community regarding the development of Pier 8. Committee also adopted Deloitte’s recommendation to sell the entire parcel to one development team. Botting said having one developer would achieve a cohesive vision for the site, adding that selling the site off on a block-by-block basis involves too many visions.

Renovo Advisory Services president and former Waterfront Toronto president John Campbell, who was retained by Deloitte, said this process will help fi nd the right developer with which to partner.

“You’re not just looking for a buyer. You’re looking for a partner to get the best value from the land, not just from the monetary value perspective but also the city building aspect.”

The RFQ will include the requirement for affordable owner-ship housing, which staff define as housing units with a sale price of at least 10 per cent below the median resale price of a home.

In a deputation to committee Habitat for Humanity Hamilton chair John Ariens said including the affordable housing target would create a level playing field for all interested developers.

“This approach will result in a truly diverse and integrated, inclusive neighbourhood,” said Ariens. “These units should be intended for the hardworking Hamilton families that otherwise would not be able to afford to live within this community.”

To create an integrated community Ariens said it makes more sense to disperse the 50-75 affordable ownership units throughout the development rather than building a standalone building. He said it is important to address the housing continuum across the city and this is one way to increase options.