Hamilton’s Waterfront Development Office (WDO) revealed a budget shortfall going into the first phase of the West Harbour construction plan.
The project’s sub-committee heard the cost will be about $11.5 million more than expected, after an update on the implementation of the development dropped Monday.
The West Harbour Waterfront Recreation Master Plan (WHWRMP) is expected to transform Piers 5 through 8 into a destination spot for residents with a boardwalk, fish habitat, waterfront trail, public spaces and as well as public and private multi-purpose buildings.
However, before even putting the first shovel in the ground, the sub-committee was told that the “design and engineering” portion of the project would bear a significantly higher cost than what the city originally budgeted for, due to the complications of working around a shoreline.
The presentation suggests design changes, an increase in the capital budget and deferring to private harbour projects as a means of funding for the public sections.
With that, the report recommends that Pier 8, the planned private sector portion of the development set to host shops and restaurants, be built before beginning construction on Piers 5, 6 and 7.
Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins says that part of the report shows what “hurdles” have plagued the redevelopment of the waterfront since council supported a master plan in 2010.
Collins told Global News Radio that waiting for Pier 8 could potentially add 10 to 15 years to the completion of the other three piers.
“I just think all signs point to a recession on the horizon, not just here, but elsewhere south of the border and in other parts of the world,” said Collins.
“I think the longer we wait, you know, it’s just it’s another delay and another setback on this funnel that is the West Harbor development plan.”
The public developments were first set to arrive in a three-phase development which, according to the original plan, would see phase one construct a new shoreline, boardwalk and fish habitat, while phase two would build a waterfront trail, plaza, pedestrian bridges and Artisan Village.
The capital budget for the West Harbour plan was around $96 million for 32 projects between 2013 and the fall of this year. Going forward, the construction plan requires another $70 million to finish in the years between 2020 to 2024.
Part of the shortfall issue is the financing of public parking on Piers 6 through 8. New construction is expected to hamper the space needed to house the 500 to 600 parking spaces recommended by a number of consultants studies which suggest it’s needed to draw visitors.
According to a Deloitte study from April 2016 and another from Toronto-based retail consultant Beauleigh, the financial success of Piers 6 and 7 will be highly subject to an ability to draw the public to the waterfront.
Beauleigh suggests without sufficient density of people on the site, it will be “impossible to create a pure retail destination which would be economically viable, profitable and sustainable.”
The master plan does address the building of an underground parking structure to mitigate the shortfall, but a specific site for it has not been finalized and the question of where additional funding will come from has left its future up in the air.
In light of all these issues, Collins is pushing for more private sector investment in the waterfront to expedite development of the West Harbour.
“It’s something that we’ve seen in other communities, communities larger than Hamilton,” Collins said.
“We’ve invested tens of millions of public dollars into the waterfront and it’s time to allow the private sector to make some small investments up front and some larger ones down the road.”
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