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Public asked for feedback on draft City of Hamilton plan

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Residents have been asked for their thoughts about the future of the City of Hamilton.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, announced yesterday afternoon the launch of public consultation on a draft of the City of Hamilton Plan 2023.

He said: “This document is for consultation at this point.

“We designed it to allow as much feedback as possible to be received from the public and other important participants and stakeholders around matters concerning the city.

“Comments received as part of the initial consultation will be used to continue to shape the plan and its progress.

“To be clear, this is the earliest stage of the process and the first opportunity to influence the content that is in this document.”

The consultation period opened on Friday and will continue until March 24.

Mr Roban said that to create the draft, the Department of Planning collected a wealth of information about the issues facing the city, along with those encountered by towns and cities across the globe to identify trends and approaches that could be adopted.

“The most consistent and unsurprising finding was the seismic shift towards online retail, which has taken place over the past 20 years and the crippling effect this has had on the vitality and function of many commercial centres,” he said.

“There is widespread global recognition that the long-term viability of town and city centres will require much more retail activity and some major cities worldwide are fundamentally changing what towns and city centres aspire to be and what they intend to offer the community.”

He said that 15 per cent of ground floor properties in the City of Hamilton were vacant with increasing concern about empty store fronts on Front Street and Reid Street.

Mr Roban said the draft plan encouraged a “discretion-based approach” on planning decisions to allow greater flexibility.

“This is meant to break the mould,” he said.

He said the overarching theme of the plan was “place-making” – a concept of creating areas with a sense of identity.

“Some key themes of place-making include prioritising pedestrian movement, creating distinctive buildings that respond to key features in the area and create safe, welcoming spaces through intelligent design and passive surveillance,” the minister said.

Victoria Cordeiro, the director of the Department of Planning, said: “The whole premise of place-making is to create a city that draws persons to visit, not out of necessity but more because they want to.

“With the policies, which you will find on our website, we want to ensure that people have a welcoming environment in which to submit new and different proposals for things such as art galleries and different cultural uses.

“We need to generate the foot fall, because once you generate that foot fall then you have a greater likelihood of people visiting retail establishments, bars, restaurants et cetera.”

Mr Roban highlighted the importance of “high-quality public spaces” to make it more appealing to spend time in the city.

Members of the public have been challenged to try their hand at “place-making” through a design competition.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, said the competition was intended to raise awareness of the plan and the approach taken with its creation.

“To participate, any individual or organisation must use the place-making and design principles from within the plan to present a development concept for one or more of the strategic development sites,” he said.

“A winner will be selected for each of the four sites.”

Entrants will be required to submit their designs by March 24, with the entries being judged by representatives of the Corporation of Hamilton, the Department of Planning and an international expert in urban design.

Winning entries will be posted at the department’s reception and on its Facebook page and website.

Full details about the competition are available at the Department of Planning website, planning.gov.bm.

Mr Roban hoped the plan would encourage investment by identifying four strategic development sites, including the city’s waterfront.

He explained: “The waterfront area has immeasurable potential and, if successfully developed, could be one of the island’s finest assets in generating additional economic activity while also being one of the reasons visitors want to come to Bermuda.

“While there are limitations to what a land-use plan can initiate, it remains of critical importance that the area is recognised for the potential and the plan contains strategic guidance on key considerations, which should guide any proposals regarding the future development of this area.

“At present, the area provides for a significant portion of parking for that part of the city and, while public parking facilities are vital for any city, this is really underutilisation of the waterfront area and something the plan is supportive of rectifying.”

Mr Roban said that while many proposals for the waterfront area had been discussed, he stressed that there were no fixed plans in place for the site.

Other strategic development sites included in the plan are the Par-la-Ville and City Hall car parks as well as the location of the former Canadian Hotel, at the junction of Reid Street and Court Street.

Mr Roban also said the plan had considered the threat of climate change by promoting green spaces and the use of renewable energy.

The plan introduces a requirement for energy statements to be included with development proposals to ensure that developers consider the energy needs of their projects and ways to reduce them.

Mr Roban said they were interested in hearing suggestions about how to improve the city for all - including the homeless and those who live with disabilities.

“These are ideas that we will welcome,” he said. “Those who read the plan, if they see gaps in these areas, we welcome their ideas so that we can advance those features.”

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Published January 21, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated January 21, 2023 at 8:09 am)

Public asked for feedback on draft City of Hamilton plan

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