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Burlington’s blank canvas: Massive mixed-use development in the works

Grant Cameron
Burlington’s blank canvas: Massive mixed-use development in the works
RENDERING COURTESY CITY OF BURLINGTON - Shown is a rendering of a proposed new community centre that is part of a massive project that sits on a 49-hectare parcel of property on King Road in the city of Burlington’s west end. The idea is to turn the area into a mixed-use community.

The City of Burlington is working with a landowner on a massive project that would transform a 49-hectare parcel of property on King Road in the city’s west end into a mixed-use community.

The vision includes a variety of land uses. These include housing, retail, a hotel, a new community centre and a 5,000-seat arena. The arena could potentially house an OHL or AHL team.

Alinea Group is the developer and is looking at a public-private partnership investment with the city.

City council has directed the city manager to work with the developer on the proposal. They will report back in the second quarter of the year with proposed next steps.

The site is a pie-shaped lot that spans the area immediately south of the QEW between King Road and Waterdown Road at the edge of the Aldershot GO Transit station. It is a site of strategic importance to the city as one of the last major mixed-use development opportunities for Burlington. Its proximity to the station makes it an appealing location for investors.

“This is very exciting,” says Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward. “This is the template on how we’re going to move forward on big parcels and achieve all the things that we want to achieve for our community — community amenities, parks, jobs, attainable housing, other types of housing. We want it all and this is a site that is big enough to accommodate all of that.

“This is such a significant opportunity for us to partner and invest and look at different ways to fund this as it will be a giant undertaking and we’ve got to look at every opportunity. But it starts with partnerships.”

Meed Ward says the property is a blank slate and it will likely require some funding from the city, but she is “absolutely supportive and on board for that. We know that we need more community facilities in Burlington. We’re behind already. We haven’t kept up with the growth that’s here now.”

The vision for the site includes mixed-use residential and commercial, a post-secondary satellite campus, and an entertainment district that includes a twin ice rink and 20-storey hotel concept. The community centre would be roughly 80,000 square feet and have a green roof.

One of the rinks would be large enough to accommodate large events with seating for 5,000. Concerts and other events that allow for standing room could accommodate upwards of 7,000.

City staff have been working with Alinea behind closed doors for a few years on the proposal. The discussions have been confidential. At a recent council meeting, they briefed elected officials on the economic development opportunities associated with the development.

Anita Cassidy, executive director of Burlington Economic Development (BED), says the property is very important to the city. It makes up the bulk of employment lands still to be developed.

In 2018, BED signed a letter of intent to work with Alinea to develop an economic vision for the site.

“What we want to create here is a true, vibrant, mixed-use community that includes several investment and economic development components as part of that,” says Cassidy.

The economic vision for the site is integrated with the adjacent transit station. When BED started the process, it set out what it wanted to achieve from an employment and economic perspective.

Cassidy says the city is looking at a post-secondary school partner to have a campus on the site and there is a gap in GTA-west market for a mixed-use arena-type project. City officials also recognize the importance of having a strong office component onsite, especially for professional services.

There is still a long way to go on the project, but the preliminary economic vision and investment opportunities presented to council are a step in the right direction, according to Cassidy.

City manager Tim Commisso says the city is fortunate to be working with a landowner who has the ability to transform the property and the willingness to work with Burlington on a vision.

“There is significant interest in private-sector elements of the proposed development. This is the start.”

Coun. Kelvin Galbraith says the site has the potential to transform a currently underdeveloped area into a vibrant community hub.

“We really have a blank canvas before us, and we are taking every detail into consideration to make sure we get this right,” he said. “We’re also looking at public sector ownership and rights to parkland, open space, and community shared-use facilities that can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

The venture will be a legacy project that, in the end, the city can be proud of, says Coun. Lisa Kearns.

“But we’ll just tread cautiously and keep that guiding principle at the forefront which is community focused, health and well-being and environmental stewardship, that economic development piece and that ongoing investment in infrastructure.”


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