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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
TORONTO STAR - story link http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_PrintFriendly&c=Article&cid=1144619553429&call_pageid=970599109774

Waterfront lessons from down the QEW
Apr. 10, 2006. 01:00 AM
CHRISTOPHER HUME


Port Dalhousie—Toronto isn't the only city with a waterfront. And it isn't the only city with plans to bring its waterfront back to life.

But here in Port Dalhousie, those plans may actually have a chance of being realized.

Though the process has been rancorous, it will reach its conclusion when St. Catharines City Council votes on a $60 million to $70 million mixed-use scheme sometime in June.

The proposal, put together by a private development outfit called Port Dalhousie Vitalization Corp. (PDVC), includes, among other elements, a boutique hotel, a 17-storey condo tower, a new 415-seat theatre and public-realm improvements. The idea is that it can change Port Dalhousie from a summer, Daytona Beach-like destination into something more sophisticated with year-round appeal.

"Frankly, I'm very excited about the project," says Mayor Tim Rigby of St. Catharines, of which Port Dalhousie is part. "Twenty or 30 years ago, you didn't want to live in Port Dalhousie. Now it's the place to be. But in the winter, it's as dead as a doornail. It's alive about eight weekends in the summer. The question is how do you make it work year-round."

As Rigby explains it, St. Catharines is only now starting to emerge from a dark period during which it lost much of the heavy industry that once made it so prosperous. As he also makes clear, however, the town still hasn't recovered and has yet to come to terms with the present.

"We haven't caught up to where we are," Rigby declares. "Every time we have an infill project, there's hell to pay. You've got to go up a bit. I'm not saying 50 storeys or anything. But this council has seen that this is the way to go."

Rigby is referring to the controversy generated by the first Port Dalhousie development proposal, a 30-storey condo tower that would have been the landmark no one wanted. Although many admired the architectural quality of the first proposal, this new version is 40 per cent shorter, and fully integrated into the block that forms the heart of Port Dalhousie's tourist precinct.

According to a recent study done by Environics for PDVC, the plan is supported by 63 per cent of the population of Port Dalhousie and St. Catharines. That's hardly overwhelming, but given the NIMBY tendencies of most communities, it's extremely positive.

"We have supported this project very vocally because we think it's architecturally strong and because it satisfies our demands for heritage preservation," says David Roberts of Niagara Citizens for Smart Development. "St. Catharines is in a transitional state; it did very well ... because of General Motors. Now a fair bit of that manufacturing work has left and we need some pivotal projects to turn it around. I love this city, but it needs some work. I think it'll only take one or two projects like this to turn things around."

On the other hand, a second community group, PROUD, has vehemently opposed this project and its predecessor from the start. It is fighting change, whether it comes in the form of a 30-storey or a 17-storey tower.

Regardless, wandering around the Port Dalhousie waterfront, one can't help but be struck by the enormous potential of the place. Despite the decay, the obvious neglect and a feeling that the place is unfinished, it retains a certain charm. The public realm needs work, but that's also part of the plan.

One also senses the presence of history all around, even under the ground, where traces of the first Welland Canal can be seen.

Then there's the theatre, which opened in 1997 and is crucial to the redevelopment scheme. As well as bringing year-round life to the area, it's intended to make Port Dalhousie appealing to more than just Saturday night beer-drinkers. Former Shaw Festival artistic director Christopher Newton, who acts as a consultant to the proposal, has given it his blessing.

"I think it's quite viable," Newton says, "economically and artistically. I think something could work here. When the next stage comes, I'll be along."

As Rigby, whose great-great-great grandfather built the first Welland Canal, explains, "The first plan was too Toronto. But attitudes are changing. We want to make Port Dalhousie a better place, a people place."


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Christopher Hume can be reached at [email protected].
 

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It'll get approved like the last proposal. Just hope NIMBY doesn't kill this proposal again.

I say it's a good compromise.
 

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The main problem with most people here in St. Catharines is the height of the building. It completely does not fit in with the Port atmosphere. Anyone who has been to Port will know this. Everything else with the proposal is fine with me. I would still rather see the beach patios there now over a cold condo tower. I really find hard to believe this project will economically rejuvinate Port Dahlousie. If the promises fall through, this will be the biggest regret.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Speaking specifically of the design....I thought that the first proposal, which featured a 30 storey glass tower designed by Diamond and Schmitt, lacked a sense of context within the heritage core. It was way too extreme and lacked a sense of harmony with the surrounding 19th century buildings - this contrast was apparently the intention of the developers. I think the tower had a simple elegance to it, which would fair well near the Toronto waterfront...but not in Port Dalhousie where there isnt a building over 5 storeys in sight.

On the other hand, this new proposal seems to add a sense of harmony to the core. The tower is now 17 storeys, instead of 30, and it will be made with a combination of materials that fit well with the materials used in the 19th century - more brick and stone than glass and steel. It will be set in from the street level, permitting a few storefront facades to coincide with other original ones. The complete vision statement that you can find on the developer's website shows a picture of the tower in its relation to the neighbourhood and I can't help but notice its appropriateness. It's bold but it fits. Perhaps my 4 years in Toronto's Church/Wellesley Village has given me a better sense of what good and bad developments are in a setting such as this.... but I can't help but think that this project will be a good one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Plans to recover the old canals have come and gone for decades now, none of them seem to take flight. Does this one have a chance now that Port Place is involved?

Taken from www.stcatharinesstandard.ca web site Friday, April 28, 2006 - © 2006 St. Catharines Standard
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Park features point to path of first Welland Canal

By Matthew Van Dongen

Friday, April 28, 2006 - 01:00

Local News - It’s hailed as a mountain-conquering feat of engineering, a historic trade canal that pierced the heart of North America.

Others refer to it as Merritt’s Ditch.

The first Welland Canal radically reshaped Niagara’s geography, along with its destiny, when it was built in 1826.

Its beginnings, wooden locks and simple earthen walls, were buried long ago in what is now Lakeside Park.

Archeologist Jon Jouppien has found them again and he wants the city to dig up that history and make it part of Port Dalhousie’s future.

“I think there’s a great opportunity here to actually rebuild the first lock, show people how it worked,” said Jouppien.

“With the developments that may be coming in, I think this is the ideal time to bring it to the attention of the public.”

Today, the casual visitor might miss the telltale “surface features” that, for Jouppien, point to the old canal like neon signs.

A slight grassy depression, dotted with 100-year-old trees, likely marks the route of the 22-foot-wide barge canal built by William Hamilton Merritt, Jouppien said.

A relatively flat stretch of land at the foot of the hillside may have functioned as the towpath.

The northwestern section of beach, as well as a good chunk of a nearby walkabout, was once a natural inlet that attracted canal builders.

Jouppien was hired by local builder Norman Rockwell to find out whether remnants of the historic canal exist on two lakefront properties slated for development.

They don’t, according to Jouppien.

His report will say the original canal appears to have started along the northwestern border of city-owned Lakeside Park.

That’s good news for Rockwell, who needed archeological clearance to forge ahead with two new beach houses.

But it should be even better news for the city, said Jouppien.

The St. Catharines heritage committee member envisions a “maritime showcase” of Port Dalhousie’s history in Lakeside Park.

He’d like to see the first section of the old canal dug out and a working wooden replica of Lock 1 installed.

Ideally, it would also include information or even a visitors centre dedicated to the American warships the Hamilton and the Scourge, which sunk off Port Dalhousie during the War of 1812.

“If you connect all this marine heritage, you could really put Port Dalhousie on the map,” he said.

“It would add a really wonderful dimension to the park, something more than merry-go-rounds and candy floss.”

It may seem like a pricey pipe dream, but Jouppien thinks now is the perfect time to float the idea of a historical Port renaissance.

“This is a chip to use in bargaining with incoming developers,” he said.

“I know there is a lot of controversy surrounding these proposals, but I think this is an opportunity for everyone to work together.”

Port Dalhousie Vitalization Corp., which wants to build an 80-condominium tower and commercial project in Port, has already proposed paying homage to the old canal route.

Architect Michael Kirkland has suggested using trees and water features to create a “ghost” canal in the park.

Jouppien would like the city “to go a step further” and the way he sees it, there’s no harm in asking.

Kirkland couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday, but Mayor Tim Rigby said the idea of unearthing the canal “is an interesting thing to consider doing.”

“It’s been discussed before,” said Rigby, who is Merritt’s great-great-great-grandson.

“Considering our history and the history of this canal, it would be something people would have an interest in seeing done.”

The mayor added he didn’t know whether a complete excavation is feasible, or even desirable.

But he agreed the Port project may provide additional dollars to help commemorate the site.

“We would certainly need a source of funding,” he said.

St. Catharines planner Paul Chapman said if the Port project goes ahead, the city would likely go ahead with a new master plan for Lakeside Park.

Port Dalhousie historian Nancy Cameron said she hopes the city gives more attention to the old canal, calling it “an artifact of enormous historical significance.”

But she added she’s not yet convinced parts of the old canal aren’t included on Rockwell’s property as well as in the park.

“I have my doubts; I’d like to see what (Jouppien) has come up with,” she said.

“Given how significant these sites are, we have to be extremely careful how we deal with them.”



[email protected]
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
City Council Approves Port Place Project!!!

After much debate, this controversial project was finally approved by St. Catharines City Council 7-5. What a great event for St. Catharines' Development Future!
Here's the article from The Standard, taken from http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/...p?contentid=89873&catname=Local+News&classif=


Council gives thumbs-up to port Place; Controversial project approved 7-5

ERIK WHITE
Local News - Wednesday, June 28, 2006 @ 01:00

The last word in a long argument that often pitted the past and future of St. Catharines against each other went to the city's founding father. From the mouth of his great-great-great-grandson.

"Someone asked me, 'What would William Hamilton Merritt say about this project?' " Mayor Tim Rigby said Tuesday night, just before putting the controversial Port Place project to a vote.

"I think he would say, 'Get on with it.' Because he was an entrepreneur. He saw the future."

The future that city council sees for the lakeside village at the mouth of Merritt's First Welland Canal includes a 17-storey condominium tower.

In a special public meeting, the seventh on the controversial development, council voted 7-5 to approve the radical facelift for Port Dalhousie's commercial core.

Joining Rigby in favour were councillors Cam Donevan, Brian Dorsey, Sue Erskine, Charles Gervais, Sheila Morra and Peter Secord.


The nays were councillors Carol Disher, Joe Kushner, Jennie Stevens, Greg Washuta and Bruce Williamson.

Williamson, who represents Port Dalhousie, has been one of the proposal's most vocal opponents and continued to warn that the decision was being "made on the fly" and that more tower plans will soon follow.

"After this, developers are going to be knocking on our door. We are now definitely on the radar screen," he told the crowd in the banquet hall at Club Roma.

"We're not a big city and I think it's incorrect we should share their values."

Kushner said he has wrestled with his own values in making up his mind, changing his vote twice over the past few weeks.

He said he had expected planning staff to propose a compromise, a building height somewhere between three and 17 storeys.

The St. Andrew's Ward councillor said he still hopes the opposing camps can agree to disagree and that this key decision won't be left up to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Stevens also hoped the developer, Port Dalhousie Vitalization Corp., and anti-development citizen's group PROUD (Port Realizing Our Unique Distinction) could work something out, avoiding an appeal to the OMB.

Those backing the project generally moved away from the well-worn points about job creation and smart growth, opting instead for a personal path.

Gervais, who tabled the motion to accept the staff recommendation, talked about riding the carousel and licking ice cream cones with his wife and four children.

Thinking back on the numerous nostalgic presentations from Port residents, he reasoned that the attachment St. Cathariners feel to Port is to Lakeside Park, not the businesses nearby.

"Regardless of whether there's a development in the background, our children, our grandchildren will have fond memories of Port Dalhousie," Gervais said.

Erskine, who represents Port Dalhousie, painted a portrait of the old-fashioned, self-contained fishing village she knew when she first moved to Port in 1946.

She spoke of long-departed stores and industries, the decay of the 1960s, the tourism visionaries of the 1980s, the perennial problems for retailers and the late-night rowdiness that was the hot topic before this tower came along.

Erskine said this moment in Port's history is a time for investment. She said the numerous checks and balances in place should ensure those idyllic architect sketches become Port's future.

"Hopefully, future generations and all my grandchildren living here will be able to enjoy a Port that is ... beautiful and restored," she said."
 

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I love Port Dalhousie!!
Aslong as they're not demolishing any of the buildings, I think it's fine.
I hope My Cottage (bar, not *my* cottage) will still have a beach volley ball court tho!
 

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Personally, I think this is a horrible idea. I live about 20 minutes away from is and i LOVE it the way it is. Port Dalhousie is like the perfect beach town with volleyball and open bars and everything. This is going to sterilyse the place. From what I can tell, the bars will be gone, the small restaurants will be gone, everything in the small block except for the stores on the street closest to the Old Welland Canal will be wiped out,

Why don't they build it in a direlect area of St Kitts? There's enough of them...
 

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DC said:
I love Port Dalhousie!!
Aslong as they're not demolishing any of the buildings, I think it's fine.
I hope My Cottage (bar, not *my* cottage) will still have a beach volley ball court tho!

Hate to break the news to you, but my cottage will no longer exist. I think the city has made a big mistake and this project will go to the OMB. The tower doesn't fit in whatsoever. By approving this project they have violated the heritage district policy implemented a few years ago.

There will be no economic spin-offs from this. Who will come to stay at this hotel?? Niagara Falls and NOTL are 20 minutes away and offer much better views and amenities. The condo will no doubt sell. The theatre will be like any other non-shaw theatre in the region with disappointing ticket sales. And 39,000 sq. feet of retail space is not what people will come to Port for.

The only thing I like about this project is the improvements to Lakeside park. Other than that, this overbearing tower will ruin the beachside atmosphere and Port experience. God bless Old Port, I will miss you.
 

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PortDalhousie development is our last chance for revival

Personally, I think this is a horrible idea. I live about 20 minutes away from is and i LOVE it the way it is. Port Dalhousie is like the perfect beach town with volleyball and open bars and everything. This is going to sterilyse the place. From what I can tell, the bars will be gone, the small restaurants will be gone, everything in the small block except for the stores on the street closest to the Old Welland Canal will be wiped out,

Why don't they build it in a direlect area of St Kitts? There's enough of them...
are u kidding me? i spoke at the hearing in favour of this development as acitizen of port dalhousie and I have absolutley nothing against this development at all. What you called a perfect little beach town has a dull future that is already starting to show. Stores come and go like nothing there and nothing can last through the winter. The vandanlism and beer drinkers are crazy down there and it isnt even safe for familys on a weekend evening or afternoon for that matter. But the cities solution to this is the bring the coppers in. Oh perfect that works just make us pay more taxes than we should for it and not even get adequate service. Doesnt work that way St Kittz. This is the last chance we got to save port before it goes under like crystal beach did. It needs to be a year round place and is adding a skating path, fixing up the historic canal, building more parking room for the already crowded area, preserving the jail house instead of keeping it the bar that its been made into (so much for historic preservation wen the old jailhouse turns into a bar), adding more stores, a hotel, a courtyard (PUBLIC) to host events and have a cafe in it, an improved encasement for the carousel, improving the existant theatre, fixing up the almost dangerous crumbling buildings on lock street really that bad. It isnt this horrible monster tower taking over port, but instead a waterfront monument to help start a new era of historic buildings and improve the overall look and feel of the small bit of waterfront that St. Catharines has to offer. And you said why would they not build this in the core of the city or anywhere else in st. catharines for that matter. This is because Port Dalhousie is the only place in St. Catharines that has the potential to host this development because it is the only public waterfront in st. catharines. Waterfront is what it takes to build up tourism. This is a chance to revive Port and it may be the last before it becomes run down by vandalism, beer drinkers, and crumbling buildings. Port is a ticking time bomb with two ways it can end up, one with an explosion being a revival of both local and international tourism or the other being the end of precious Port Dalhousie becoming a dump and closed off from tourism. Just think, would you rather pay more money on the public works of the city to fix it up in the near future or have the Port Dalhousie Vitalization Corp. do it for us and alot better than the city would for that matter.
 

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PortDalhousie development is our last chance for revival addition

Hate to break the news to you, but my cottage will no longer exist. I think the city has made a big mistake and this project will go to the OMB. The tower doesn't fit in whatsoever. By approving this project they have violated the heritage district policy implemented a few years ago.

There will be no economic spin-offs from this. Who will come to stay at this hotel?? Niagara Falls and NOTL are 20 minutes away and offer much better views and amenities. The condo will no doubt sell. The theatre will be like any other non-shaw theatre in the region with disappointing ticket sales. And 39,000 sq. feet of retail space is not what people will come to Port for.

The only thing I like about this project is the improvements to Lakeside park. Other than that, this overbearing tower will ruin the beachside atmosphere and Port experience. God bless Old Port, I will miss you.
just to add to what i have just said, you sound ridiculous too. 39,000 sq feet of retail space will attract both international and especially local tourists. They have re created the tower so that it will fit with the atmosphere of the area. I run down there everyday and know that it will fit in perfect. It is ridiculous to say that it does not fit in, they have built the entire facility around the jailhouse just to preserve what is now a bar. Go to their website and check again it is exactly the style that port dalhousie is starting to show through the lock and main street market and the stretch of stores and resturaunts along lakeport road where the Tim Hortons is. And yes it is not only the shops that attract but als the skate path and the fixed up carousel and the hotel and the new resturaunts and fixed up old canal and other histori features. The current theatre is making great ticket sales and will be completely improved with its ticket sales. By the way, it will not be "just another non shaw theatre", one of the leaders in the shaw theatre has agreed to follow the developers if they are approved and make it into a shaw theatre as well. Also the new Hogans court makes room for many new festivites and events to be hosted and the attraction of boaters and yachts from Toronto will improve drastically. It is ridiculous to say that onlyshops wont attract people because you are proving my point. What port dalhousie currently has (shops) are coming and going and wont last but when these new shops and theatre and resturaunts and hotel and condos come in it will have stores that can finally last through the winter with it being given the chance to become a year round place. Oh yah and thanks for reminding me the improvements to lakeside park will be great too.
 
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