Delegation to City Hall – November 21, 2016 – Metrolinx
Planning & Infrastructure Committee
Good Afternoon, Madam Chair, and Councillors
Thank you for the opportunity to delegate.
The report and presentation from Metrolinx are appreciated and lift the shroud of secrecy that has surrounded their significant purchase of land in downtown Brampton earlier this year. However, as one might expect, the information put forward for public consumption raises a series of questions which we hope can be easily, and meaningfully answered.
Why did the original TPAP recommended LRT alignment through downtown, re-recommended by Metrolinx in October last year, rely on an Environmental Assessment that was fundamentally flawed as has now been proven, and which did not include a detailed analysis of the downtown GO Mobility Hub study which would deal with future extensions to the north, west, and east of Brampton?
When Brampton Council turned down the LRT alignment through downtown to the GO station, they did not say no to the LRT north from the Steeles Gateway. Rather they approved carrying out Environmental Assessments for two alternative routes – one up Kennedy, the other McLaughlin, both of which were designed to have the LRT end up at the downtown GO station. Why, then, did Metrolinx, when returning the uncommitted funding back to the Province, not hold back the money set aside for the Mobility Hub study so that that work could be undertaken?
There was considerable but understandable, secrecy on the significant land acquisition made by Metrolinx in downtown adjacent to the GO Station parking, even to the point of keeping the elected representatives in the dark. Now that the purchase is public knowledge, why is the Metrolinx report not more forthcoming on its potential use? Why did Metrolinx choose not to acquire the entire block, rather than just an odd shaped parcel that will have challenges and inefficiencies to develop, unless it is only going to be used for surface public parking? Why would Metrolinx not want to have the flexibility that the acquisition of the entire block would have given them, and particularly to control or be a part of a major and significant comprehensive mixed-use development as part of the Mobility Hub or at least adjacent to it? Acquiring the balance of the block will likely cost significantly more should it be seen as a necessary or useful addition.
Brampton is seen as the sleeping (sleepy) community for residents working elsewhere. The City is in desperate need to right the imbalance of the residential (77%) and the commercial (23%) assessment base. It is hugely difficult to assemble large development sites in downtown to do a meaningful project that might kick start the downtown renewal we all await. The Metrolinx site is probably one of the best possible for significant-scale development. Was there any vision of City building that was carried out in cooperation with City staff in the acquisition of this strategic site?
We believe it is really important for Metrolinx to see their role as not just a transit provider, but as a significant and cooperative contributor to the well-being of the urban area in a mutually beneficial way.
Speaking extemporaneously, I add the following:
With respect to the odd and irregular shape of the Metrolinx land assembly, the City Hall expansion is instructive. It too, was an irregular site which in retrospect, was too small to accommodate the architect’s planned building. If, and I mean if, the City had acquired the adjacent properties on Queen Street – properties which were offered to the City for purchase and no expropriation would have been necessary, the site would have had more regular boundaries and be more effectively developed without compromise. This would have resulted in the following:
– a more efficient floor plan
– a more efficient parking garage with improved circulation, without access and egress to the parking garage conflicting with servicing traffic
– an ability to use shoring with tie backs that would have obviated the need to use convoluted and complicated construction methodology which was both more costly and time consuming, delaying project delivery
– an ability to set back the building at the corner of George and Queen which would have prevented the damage to the overhanging canopy by trucks trying to turn right onto George from Queen
– an ability to have the west wall at Queen set back from the property line to allow fenestration rather than the solid opaque wall that resulted and which gives the rather uninteresting appearance of the building to those approaching downtown from the west
– with the Queen Street properties added to the site, there would be no legal suit against the City due to potential snow load exposure caused by building right to the property line. As it is now, Queen Street properties are both isolated and have little redevelopment possibility, a loss for the City.
The point I am making is that City building is not just about erecting buildings. It requires visioning – contextual planning, spacial inter-relationships, harmony in uses, workable internal and external traffic patterns, and concerns for pedestrian safety and enjoyment, all within the urban environment.
As a developer of major properties in my working career spanning 50 years, it would be a tragedy if we learned nothing from the mistakes made with the City Hall expansion, all of which need not have happened with a little foresight and understanding of City building.
The land assembly by Metrolinx which has resulted in an irregular site is heading down the same path as the City Hall expansion. It is time for Metrolinx to complete the assembly of the whole block and provide us with their vision of a development which makes a statement to the community, which contributes to our commercial assessment base, and which is seen to be more than a surface parking lot for 200 parking spaces.
Doug Bryden – Co-Chair – CFBB