Union Waterfront by Fortress

Now and when

Port Dalhousie has long been embattled over plans for the Old Port Mansion site at the corner of Lock and Main Streets. Almost a decade after an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing, and three years after finiciers Fortress Real Developments took over, no decision on the future of the current reinvented proposal has yet been made by the City of St Catharines.

First, St Catharines Council must decide on the future of our commercial core and heritage district. See: Port Dalhousie Secondary Plan

What are the issues?

Residents fear City Hall will allow height restrictions beyond what the character of the heritage area demands for 3 currently planned condos. The proposals for the current Lincoln Fabrics building and the Royal Canadian Legion next door hinge on 2-storey allowances, both propose 8-storey’s.

The historic Lincoln Fabrics building is currently 6-storeys, the Official Plan calls for 3. Note: in real estate, a storey is generally accepted to be approximately 10 feet, or 3 metres, in height.  This is why although the Lincoln Fabrics building has 4 floors at it’s highest, it is considered to be a 6-storey building.

Other than that, I believe the plans have been well received by the community; the site at Lock and Main Streets is far more complex.

A tower, by any other name, is still a tower.

Once upon a time, in a Port called Dalhousie, the crowning gem in the City of St Catharines, there was a proposal for 17-storey tower that went to the OMB. After all was said and done, the fight exhausted, Port Place was never built.

Some buildings demolished, a scar on our heart, the site has sat like an open wound; the years passed.

One day, the people were informed the project had been taken over by financiers Fortress Real Development. They proposed a 14-storey mixed-use building with 157 units, and over 23,000 square feet of commercial floor space and a total of 258 underground parking spaces.

Gone was the 17-storeys and the theatre, replaced with 14-set-back-storeys and more units.

Seasons changed, the lake rose, the lake receeded, and the people of Port Dalhousie waiting to hear their fate.

Spring 2018

On Friday, April 13th, 2018, the Ontario branch of the RCMP executed search warrants on 6 locations in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), tied to Fortress Real Developments, as part of an ongoing investigation into syndicated mortgage fraud.

How does this effect Port Dalhousie? It may not… but, fraud investigations can lead to seizure and/or forfeiture of property.

Why does this matter? If St Catharines Council votes to accept the proposed Amendment to the Official Plan, that amendment is irrevocable – should a new developer want to build, the amended heights would be applicable.

Doesn’t the 2009 OMB hearing overide the Official and Secondary Plans? Yes, and no. A decade has passed since that decision and, with the adaption of a new Secondary Plan, and a new proposal, the existing ruling can be revoked. That’s right – we are not stuck with 17-storey’s.

The current Official Secondary Plan calls for 3-storey’s at street level; the Amendment currently in front of Council, allowing for the 14-set-back-storey’s of the new plan, would fix the allowable height at the Lock and Main Streets site at 14 storey’s.

Let St Catharines Council know – Port Dalhousie demands a moratorium on a decision regarding Fortress Real Development’s Union Waterfront Proposal until such a time as the RCMP investigation is complete or Fortress proves financial capability to continue with the project.

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Port Dalhousie Secondary Plan

I have attended Open Houses regarding the Port Dalhousie Secondary Plan, and proposed condos, at both the Lion Club and Performing Arts Centre (PAC); I feel the community’s position has been consistent and clear: Lincoln Fabrics should RETAIN ITS EXISTING HEIGHT and be the ruler by which we measure new construction.

I would like to be clear – I am not anti-development and share the business communities desire to see something, anything, built sooner rather than later – but not at the expense of our heritage; Port Dalhousie is the crown of St Catharines; it is attractive precisely because it has a 19th century village charm. Tall buildings do not belong nor do we see them in other heritage sites.

When my parents started speaking about retiring to Niagara, it never occured to any of us they would settle in St Catharines. I was living in Ohio at the time and, even though we drove home to Toronto bi-weekly, via Niagara, I could barely place St Catharines a map. Then, one day, when i received an email declaring they’d bought a heritage home in Port Dalhousie and would be restoring it – to be honest, I still didn’t realize it was St Catharines, not until I started to exit the QEW to visit on my way through.

That was a few years ago and, when the time came, I choose to follow my family and also relocated to St Catharines, first downtown, now in Port.

(I’ve come to realize living on a beach in wine country is not a bad gig)         

Why did we have open houses if not to present a plan that reflects the publics desire to retain our heritage? My friends and neighbours, my parents friends and neighbours, may have diverse views about most topics but on this we all agree: Lincoln Fabrics should be the HIGHEST building in Port and retain its existing height, while the proposed Port Place, at the Legion site, should be built to match.

Why did we pay for a report if we are just going to ignore it? Why did we need to file FOI requests to have it made public? Why did council delay this plan for a full year allowing developers the chance to apply under the existing rules?

I am left with more questions than answers and feel frustrated that the community’s input, which is consistent with the consultants original report, is being ignored.

It is time that Staff and you our elected representatives listen to us the voters.

Port Dalhousie Secondary Plan

Yesterday. I posted this without comment as, per usual, I prefer humility to accolades. A day later, I’ve changed my mind.
 
“The councillors agreed to drop their FOI request a month later when city staff agreed to show the report to them confidentially with the rest of council. At least one member of the public, Emily Spanton, then filed her own FOI.”
 
Our councillors made a deal with the Devil and left it to us, the public, to fight for transparency and accountability on a highly contentious issue. We answered that deal by saying it was inappropriate and filing our own FOI requests to make the report public. We collected the funds to pay for report from community members. We answered the emails and calls from staff with further questions. We took time out of our day to twice go to city hall, first to file papers, second to pay the fee.
 
And it was only with their imminent release to me that councillors changed their tune and decided to fight for what is rightfully ours. So please, stop giving the credit to 3 men who couldn’t stick with their convictions and are taking the credit for the hard work of a woman and other community members.
It’s uncouth and highly inappropriate.