Niagara’s rich history has resulted in plenty of calls-to-action to ensure that it’s preserved and appropriately showcased throughout the region. Restoration projects have been a great way to save money and reduce the environmental impact when compared to new building development projects. In the previous blog we looked at some of the restoration projects in Niagara-on-the-Lake, showcasing some of the many uses of historical buildings across the region. Whether it’s for downtown revitalization, or a community within the city, St. Catharines has also had its fair share of restoration projects.


Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts


What was once the old brick Canada Hair Cloth Co. factory on the valley floor has been renovated into Brock University’s new $46-million building. The factory used to make parachute silks and linings for men’s suits and has been revitalized to host airy art studios, music practice spaces, digital media labs and faculty offices.


The preservation and restoration of the 19th-century textile mill is one of many projects that are valuable in the revitalization of St. Catharines’ downtown core. This endearing project was made possible by a $26.2-million investment from the Ontario government along with a $15-million transformational gift from local textile artist and philanthropist Marilyn I. Walker.  


The Wellington at Port


With the help of a heritage engineer, The Wellington at Port at 9 and 15 Lock Street have been set to become an Ontario craft beer bar (Lock Street Brewing Company), a Niagara region wine bar, an authentic coffee bar and artist’s co-op. The one building most recently operated as the Lion’s Tavern and has a long history in the area. However, the former tavern building had never been condemned and was given a clean bill of health from their structural engineer.


The project owners are Wolfgang Guembel and Darryl Austin, who are both business owners in the core of Port Dalhousie, and are hoping restoration projects such as these will help revitalize the core of Port Dalhousie.


28 and 160 St. Paul Street


28 St. Paul St. is one of the oldest buildings in downtown St. Catharines and has also received a heritage designation, ensuring its permanent preservation. In the 1870s this building was an auction house for Hyam and Co. and eventually from the late-1800s to the mid-1900s it is listed in city directories as being vacant or stores for clothing, furniture, etc. Although there haven’t been any major restoration projects to it recently, the heritage designation means the owner can apply for matching grants up to $1,000 for approved external repairs.

160 St. Paul Street was a 2015 Niagara Region award winner for its new and improved aesthetic appeal after its restoration was completed in 2015. The unified front façade of the building is a huge improvement along with the space that was made for four commercial units and a five bedroom apartment above. Parker Architects Inc. and Pen Engineering Ltd. played big roles in this restoration, with the project being noted for its use of materials that retained the heritage characteristics of the building while being inviting for the pedestrian and customers.


As Niagara’s housing market continues to stay hot so to does the investment from both locals and foreigners for development proposals. The Niagara region is booming, and with the growth comes decisions regarding more restoration projects like the ones in St. Catharines or demolishing and starting fresh with new developments. Making the decision to restore buildings just seems more economically feasible and adds a unique feel to the region as opposed to being another urban jungle.