St. Catharines’ downtown core has experienced significant economic growth over the past 5 years. From large scale institutional developments to small retail stores and a public space resurface, change and growth is everywhere.

Whether you are interested in testing your taste buds at new local spots such as Twenty Restaurant or 06 Chengdu Noodles (the best noodles in town!), are open to an evening listening to the beautiful sounds of the Niagara Symphony Orchestra at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre or cheering on the Niagara Ice Dogs at the state-of-the-art Meridian Centre– downtown St. Catharines is riding a successful development high that shows no plans of slowing down.


Plans Turned into Action


Much of downtown’s progress can be attributed to the 2008 Downtown Creative Cluster Master Plan. The 2008 plan focused on strategic redevelopment through the creation of a “creative cluster”, which included the 5,000-seat spectator facility now known as the Meridian Centre, the $60 million FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre and a downtown Brock University campus housing the Marilyn I. Walker Centre for the Performing Arts.

Using key aspects from the 2008 Master Plan, the city then unveiled its Garden City Development Plan in 2010. The 191-page, long-term land-use strategy was formally approved after the Province designated most of downtown as the sole Urban Growth Centre in the Niagara Region. This designation provided public funding that totalled more than $270 million. The fundingdirectly resulted in the creation of the Meridian Centre, Performing Arts Centre and Marilyn I. Walker Centre for the Performing Arts. These developments remain the cornerstone of downtown’s growth over the past five years.

Perhaps the most growth in downtown has been seen along St. Paul Street, and if this year is any indication, St. Paul’s landscape will continue to change. Below we explore it’s newly proposed developments and commercial opportunities.


201 St. Paul: A Community Cornerstone


The corner of St. Paul and James Streets has been vacant for decades. In October 2018, city council approved Bloom, a seven-story office building that’s set to combine high-rise ceilings and expansive, open concept windows with outdoor terraces and high-end tech infrastructure. The proposed design will transform the corner of St. Paul and James, making it an example of modern development for future projects.

Development plans for 201 St. Paul

Two masonry blocks will divide the building– one hovering above the other, with a clerestory in between to admit light and fresh air. While the upper floors of the proposed building will house office spaces, the ground floor will offer various retail opportunities such as coffee and retail shops.

201 St. Paul Street finally has a bright future. It is refreshing to witness detailed development plans in place for this property, as I believe this building will be an example for the future of downtown’s revitalization projects.


The Lincoln: A St. Paul Transformation


Further down St. Paul at 386, another buildingis getting a major facelift after being acquired by Advisors Realty & Consulting.

The Lincoln by Advisors Realty & Consulting is a transformational project located at 386 St. Paul Street.

The Lincoln is a two-storey commercial development that is being transformed into a modern multi-use space. Plans for the 4,500 square foot building include a local upscale restaurant, the newly opened Dispatch Restaurant. Over 75 percent of the building is already occupied with commercial suites housing tenants such as the SEIU Healthcare trade union, a financial services company, and a photography studio.


Storefront Facelifts


Multiple investments are being made along St. Paul Street, and it’s not only new developments. Property restoration and redevelopment over the last few years has been an increasing trend. In 2016, the city invested in their facade improvement program, offering businesses $10,000 in grants to give their property a facelift. In 2016, the Niagara Region matched the funding price allowing property owners to obtain grants totalling up to $20,000. The owner of the successful Mahtay Cafe at 241 St. Paul was one of the first businesses to update their property with the help of the facade grant, you can read about their transformation here.

In recent years that followed the success of Mahtay Cafe, retail-based businesses have also made a splash on St. Paul Street. We have watched new retail stores open, such as the trendy dog apparel store, Little Chief and Co, sports equipment store, SC Sports and All Things Pawn Shop which opened in March. While also taking note of established businesses making the move to set up shop on St. Paul, as Ausmosis Apparel did last year. This has resulted in an increase in traffic throughout the area, bringing a welcomed vibrancy to the downtown core.  


Invest in Downtown


The last decade of commercial development plans has proven to be a success for a growing and revitalizing St. Catharine’s downtown core. Where there is a new entertainment facility, there will be a need for restaurants and bars. We have already seen growth in this area on St. Paul Street specifically, with the success of new restaurants like the chalkboard style menu serving creatively inspired dishes at oddBird (a personal favourite!) and the recently opened tasty taco joint, Lost + Found.

Looking ahead, the East end of downtown is entering the next wave of redevelopment.

Spots like the Lincoln and the Warehouse Concert Hall are just a couple of properties signalling to the strong potential for further commercial updates. More on my thoughts on East end development in our next downtown blog. 

St. Catharines is making waves in Southern Ontario, and the time is now to be a part of this historical progress.