The Ongoing History of the Port Dalhousie Development Project
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Port Dalhousie is finally feeling optimistic.
The historical community has been on a development rollercoaster for the last 15 years. The community is filled with nothing but passion and is ready for a positive change.
February 2019, marked a turning point in the ongoing condo development saga as Rankin Construction purchased Union Waterfront Property for $8.1 million. Rankin, a trusted community partner, already has a condo development in the works within the small community. There is hope that in possession of the Rankin team the development may finally be in worthy hands.
The condo developments in Port Dalhousie have been a key story to follow. For 15 years we’ve observed ongoing controversial condo plans, battles over the preservation of historical buildings and several bouts of community anguish. It finally looks like the controversy could be coming to an end. Let’s take a closer look at how the development story has unfolded over the last several years.
The History of Development:
A Look Into the Port Dalhousie Development Controversy
Development plans begin as a twenty-seven-storey tower design is proposed by architect Jack Diamond. This plan would see most of Port Dalhousie demolished to make way for a new multi-use commercial development.
Port Place development is approved, a $100-million condo development by Port Dalhousie Vitalization Corp (PDVC).
Site Plan Inclusions: Boutique hotel, a live theatre and numerous shops and restaurants.
The Ontario Municipal Board approval on these plans stand today, however, some aspects of the plan are no longer financially viable, like the theatre. The viability of this option was eliminated when the Performing Arts Centre in downtown St. Catharines opened in late 2015, providing the city with a space to enjoy the arts, and saving money for other aspects of the Port development, such as the retail component.
Principals of PDVC sell their interest in Port Place to Derek Martin, whose company Landform Canada Construction is to be involved in the development moving forward.
Popular bars closed down, making way for condos.
Many of Port Dalhousie’s most popular spots close their doors officially to make way for the Port Place development. Demolition of the community’s legendary buildings like Port Mansion and My Cottage take place over the summer, making way for a new development and sales office (this build still stands).
The Royal Canadian Legion votes to approve for a new condo deal, by voting to approve a letter of intent to sell the property to Augustine Group, the developer of Port Place. As part of the project, the Legion will rebuild on the same property as the condo development at 57 Lakeport Rd.
Richmond-Hill based Fortress Real Developments “acquires” the former Port Place development site, renaming it Union Waterfront. Fortress had ties with Port Place since 2009, as an original financier of the development. Their first proposed plan is to build a fourteen-storey mixed-use building with 220 apartments.
The public is mostly unaware that Fortress Real Developments had been involved with the project since Derek Martin acquired the share of PDVC back in 2011. Fortress was the main financial backers of Derek Martin.
The news of Fortress “buying” the property should have been the first sign of a questionable direction for the development. A quick look into Fortress at that time showed a handful of active development sites throughout the country, but little to no actual completed projects. More on Fortress to come…
On April 13th, 2015, St. Catharines City Council authorizes the preparation of a Secondary Plan for the Port Dalhousie Commercial Core and Harbour areas. The goal of the plan is to address community concerns in regards to heritage conservation, building heights, public space (parks and green space preservation), transportation and parking management.
On April 18th, 2016, Council works with the firm of Macaulay Shiomi Howson Ltd., to complete the Port Dalhousie Secondary Plan, and Heritage District Guidelines studies— a series of meetings and guidelines are scheduled to implement a community-inspired vision for Port Dalhousie.
Three public open house meetings are scheduled as part of the consultation process, taking place throughout 2016. The open houses include creating a visioning workshop, where the city and public voiced their opinions on their ideas for Port Dalhousie’s future.
Fortress reconfigures plans for the condo development and hires Toronto-based architecture firm Kirkor Architects and Planners. With 1.5 acres of land, the project includes plans for a multi-residential development with a retail component that connects the picturesque waterfront with the residential community.
The plan includes a two-phase residential development with a retail component. Phase One includes a twelve-storey building with 170 units. Phase Two includes a six to eight-storey building with 60 units.
The City of St. Catharines completes the Port Dalhousie Secondary Plan, to address development aspects going forward.
The historic Lincoln Fabrics building is bought by Port Dalhousie Harbour Club Ltd, taking ownership on June 1st, 2017.
On June 12th, 2017, Fortress revises their development plans and submits a formal planning application to the City of St. Catharines for a mixed-use project called the Union Waterfront Condos. Replacing the two-phase development from 2016 is a fourteen-storey terraced building with 220 units, a community space, public courtyard, 258 underground parking spaces and 2,084 square metres of commercial space.
Fortress files for an Official Plan Amendment and Zoning By-law Amendment in order to go forward with their June 2017 site plan. Site plans from previous developments made by Port Place must be amended and approved, as the Ontario Municipal Board approved site-specific plans on the land in 2010. Fortress cannot move forward with current development plans until Official Plan Amendments have been approved by the city.
Port Dalhousie residents voice concerns over Fortress’ Union Waterfront Condos at a public information session held at the Lions Club by the City of St. Catharines.
Fortress Real Developments seek an amendment that would adjust the permitted building height and required mix of uses, in their June 2017 site proposal. Residents share their thoughts on the proposed development, many voicing concerns about the size of the project, most reference their concerns over parking and traffic issues. Residents also voice concern over preserving heritage sites and keeping the area’s authenticity and small town feel.
Ontario’s financial regulator fines and revokes Vince Petrozza’s mortgage license, a key stakeholder in the Fortress Port Project, putting the project on hold.
Four brokerages are ordered to pay a combined total of $1.1 million in penalties on consent, for syndicated mortgage investments for real estate development projects. Included in the fine is the Building Development and Mortgages Canada Inc, which administers the mortgage on the Union Waterfront property, and is ordered to pay $400,000.
St. Catharines city council approves a condo development at 57 Lakeport Rd, proposed by Tom Rankin and Royal Canadian Legion Branch 350. The mixed-use development’s plans include a 560-square-metre legion hall, outdoor patio and 94 underground parking spaces. Rankin’s site plan also includes an eight-storey building, with 51 condo units. The proposal includes several amendments to the City’s zoning by-law, to allow an eight-storey building (30 metres in height) to exist. The current by-law permits up to 11 metres, or 3 storeys, however, Rankin wants the building to be comparable to their six-storey (and growing) neighbours, Lincoln Fabrics.</span>The community shares excitement for the project, as Rankin Construction has always delivered noticeable results within the Niagara region.
Fortress Union Waterfront property goes into receivership. A Superior Court of Justice order in Hamilton appoints MSI Spergel Inc. as receiver for Union Waterfront, Inc. to manage the interests of mortgagee FirstOntario Credit Union. The order empowers the receiver to take possession of the Union Waterfront Project.
The two properties at 12 Lakeport Rd. and 16 Lock St. are closed, notifying the public of the receivership after Fortress defaulted in its obligations on a $10-million business loan.
After years of development plans with little results, many Port Dalhousie residents no longer trust Fortress with this project, especially after a history of mortgage issues with other clients is revealed publicly.
The building will have approximately 120 units, 7 ground-floor work units and 370 metres of commercial space. Plans are in place to add penthouses to the existing building, making Lincoln Fabrics six storeys.
The developer, The Port Dalhousie Harbour Club Ltd. has plans to start construction in Autumn of 2019, with the project finished within two years, thereafter. The finished development will be called The Harbour Club.
The Royal Canadian Legion is demolished to make way for new condo construction led by Rankin.
Rankin Construction purchases Union Waterfront property for $8.1 million.
Positive Change for Port
With the purchase of the Union Waterfront property, Rankin Construction has yet again proved that they are a champion for Niagara. The company has a strong track record of delivering positive change within the Niagara Region, for the benefit of Niagara residents. Their joint-venture work on the $50 million Meridian Centre with Ball Construction helped revitalize the St. Catharines’ downtown core, providing a state-of-the-art entertainment and sports facility for the city. In 2018, Rankin built strong ties with Brock University after investing $2 million into their Schmon Tower project.
The success of these projects has instilled faith within the Port Dalhousie community, as Rankin finalized the deal for Union Waterfront property at the start of March. Details of Rankin’s site plan are set to be released and hopefully approved by the city within the next three months, followed by council approval.
The Port Dalhousie Community has been begging for an answer to the development saga for years. Rankin Construction has come to the rescue, and I believe they will be the ones to get the job done.