What lies ahead for the city’s port lands

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - NATALIE PADDON npad­don@th­es­pec.com 905-526-2420 | @NatatTheSpec


Port author­ity head shares plans for beau­ti­fy­ing its real es­tate, ex­pand­ing its reach and pre­serv­ing nat­u­ral space

The head of the Hamil­ton Port Author­ity says the agency is tak­ing steps to “un­lock the gates” of the city’s port lands.

Ian Hamil­ton, who took over as pres­i­dent in Jan­uary, said a key mes­sage that emerged from the port author­ity’s land use plan­ning up­date, launched last sum­mer, was the com­mu­nity’s de­sire to bet­ter un­der­stand “what we re­ally do here.”

“Ev­ery­one wanted to know what went on be­hind the gates,” said Hamil­ton, who pre­vi­ously served as the HPA’s vice-pres­i­dent of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and real es­tate.

Just a few months into his new post, Hamil­ton says the author­ity is work­ing on ini­tia­tives to im­prove the re­la­tion­ship between lo­cal res­i­dents and the agency.

He spoke with The Spec­ta­tor about some of those projects and what’s next for the port author­ity.

Be­hind closed doors

Giv­ing lo­cal res­i­dents a chance to see what goes on at the Port of Hamil­ton is one way the author­ity hopes to im­prove its re­la­tion­ship with the com­mu­nity. To start, Hamil­ton said they plan to host a cou­ple of free pub­lic boat tours on the Har­bour Queen and put in an eight- to 10-foot-tall view­ing tower near the author­ity’s new boat stor­age fa­cil­ity on Pier 15.

The sights would change reg­u­larly. Staff at nearby Hed­dle Ma­rine could be do­ing re­pairs on ves­sels. Some­times work will be un­der­way on the Ran­dle Reef con­tain­ment fa­cil­ity. Other times ship­ping ac­tiv­ity might be vis­i­ble at the Stelco prop­erty. But there will al­ways be a view of the wa­ter.

Sher­man In­let

One of the ar­eas where the com­mu­nity sought change was at Sher­man In­let — which in 2001 was filled in, il­le­gally, for park­ing and a storm sewer by the port author­ity’s pre­de­ces­sor, the Board of Hamil­ton Har­bour Com­mis­sion­ers.

“When we did our first open houses, we heard loud and clear that it was a re­ally im­por­tant is­sue, which is why we said let’s ad­dress it right now,” said Hamil­ton.

The port author­ity has com­mit­ted to a two-year process to re­store the shore­line and to per­ma­nently pre­serve the area as a nat­u­ral space — some­thing res­i­dents have been urg­ing for years.

This comes af­ter the author­ity un­veiled $3-mil­lion plans in 2007 to re­me­di­ate the in­let and al­low trail ac­cess to the semi-nat­u­ral area in the east har­bour.

“Due to se­cu­rity re­quire­ments, we’re go­ing to have to keep it fenced in,” Hamil­ton noted. “It’s not ev­ery­thing ev­ery­one was look­ing for, but it’s a good com­pro­mise.”

The port author­ity will come up with its own plans and then con­sult with the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans to fig­ure out how to move for­ward.

Work is ex­pected to start at the end of this year or the be­gin­ning of next year, he said.

Beau­ti­fy­ing the port lands

The author­ity is tak­ing steps to beau­tify the edges of the port lands that meet pub­lic space.

A pol­li­na­tor garden has been planted ad­ja­cent to the boat stor­age build­ing near Hill­yard Street. It’s the first one — as far as the HPA is aware — planted in in­dus­trial Hamil­ton.

“There’s quite of­ten a col­li­sion between Mother Na­ture and in­dus­try,” he said. “This was an im­por­tant ini­tia­tive to show we can work with Mother Na­ture, as well.”

Hamil­ton said the author­ity will also be look­ing for spa­ces to “green” on port lands, in­clud­ing space along East­port Drive and Burling­ton Street.

One fin­ished ex­am­ple is the perime­ter around Col­lec­tive Arts Brew­ing on Burling­ton, said port author­ity spokesper­son Larissa Fenn. “It’s not rocket sci­ence — it’s some trees — but it makes a big dif­fer­ence,” she said.

Dust con­trol

The port author­ity has be­gun im­ple­ment­ing a pi­lot sys­tem to mon­i­tor dust, which will help them un­der­stand how much is ac­cu­mu­lat­ing, pin­point prob­lem ar­eas and con­sider how the prob­lem can be ad­dressed.

The author­ity is work­ing with the Hamil­ton Air Mon­i­tor­ing Net­work on its pi­lot project, which tar­geted the East­port area, Hamil­ton said.

The con­cern over dust has been heard “loud and clear,” he added, not­ing the author­ity will work with com­mu­nity groups in or­der to reach a “good mar­riage between in­dus­try and res­i­den­tial.”

Ex­pand­ing lands

While the port author­ity has 630 acres of land, it needs more room to grow, said Hamil­ton.

“Ob­vi­ously, we’re watch­ing very closely to see what hap­pens to the Stelco lands as it makes a very log­i­cal fit to us,” he noted. “We think we can bring a lot of value to de­vel­op­ing those lands into em­ploy­ment lands and a strong tax base for the City of Hamil­ton.”

Other ar­eas look “fairly in­signif­i­cant” com­pared to the op­por­tu­nity at the Stelco prop­erty, but Hamil­ton said they have their eye on a few other plots of land in the city and sur­round­ing ar­eas.

The lower city is their first pri­or­ity, but they would look to al­ter­na­tives — even out­side of Hamil­ton — if they fit within their busi­ness model as a “mul­ti­modal hub.”

In the mean­time, they’re try­ing to make bet­ter use of ex­ist­ing space by find­ing more ef­fi­cient stor­age sys­tems.

Truck­ing routes

The author­ity is look­ing into how to ad­dress some of the com­mu­nity’s con­cerns around truck ac­tiv­ity at the port, Fenn said.

They have lim­ited in­flu­ence given that they don’t own the fleets, she added, but are ex­am­in­ing whether they can, through sig­nage and ed­u­ca­tion, en­cour­age trucks to use routes like Burling­ton Street in­stead of go­ing into the city.

“In some cases, we’re also do­ing things like bring­ing road­ways in­ter­nal to the port land so trucks don’t have to go onto city streets.”

Fish­er­man’s Pier

Pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions re­vealed a de­sire to see im­prove­ments to Fish­er­man’s Pier around the Burling­ton Canal.

A re­cre­ational-com­mer­cial plan could be a “neat op­por­tu­nity,” Hamil­ton said, but they’re still in the early stages.

“If a third party says that this would be a neat spot to make an investment in a com­mer­cial-re­cre­ational way, we would cer­tainly sup­port it,” he added.

Be­cause the own­er­ship of the space is “frag­mented,” the author­ity would have to work with other part­ners, in­clud­ing the city and the com­mu­nity, said Fenn.

A mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar plan for the area to build a smaller ver­sion of Granville Is­land (a Van­cou­ver wa­ter­front de­vel­op­ment) pitched al­most 15 years ago “might be a bit am­bi­tious,” Hamil­ton said.

Fenn noted that the cur­rent think­ing cen­tres on how to im­prove the area based on the ways peo­ple al­ready use it, such as for walk­ing and cy­cling along the wa­ter­front trail.

“There’s a lot we can do to make it a friend­lier place for vis­it­ing,” she added.

Hamil­ton is keen to see a Mar­itime mu­seum come to the city, but the port author­ity has yet to find the right home and cir­cum­stances to make it work.

Ian Hamil­ton

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