A topic that comes up frequently when knocking on doors – particularly on the East side of the 12 Mile Creek – is the topic of redevelopment of the GM lands on Ontario St.
Several years ago, City Council had the opportunity to make redevelopment a little bit easier, by opening up the Official Plan designation for the lands to allow for study of uses other than the Industrial zoning that exists there now. While Council chose not to do this, I was in firm support of changing the designation to make redevelopment easier, and remain in favour today.
We are now seeing, however, that even though Council allowed this roadblock to remain, a developer has approached GM to buy the lands, and is in the final stages of acquiring the property. The company has a great deal of experience in developing old Brownfield (environmentally damaged) sites and rehabilitating them, which can only be seen as good news. Reports indicate that their plans for the redevelopment involve a variety of uses, which is a plus from the point of view of the mixed uses that exist in and around that corridor. And at the end of the day, Ontario St. is an access point from the QEW into our now redeveloping downtown; we need a gateway that shows the way forward for St. Catharines, not the way backwards.
So it is incumbent on the next City Council to ensure that roadblocks to this redevelopment are removed. Let residents provide input into the process, and then ensure that City Hall stays out of the way of the developer as it works with the community to make those acres of prime land in our city centre vibrant again. This redevelopment has been a long time in coming; we need to make sure the process moves forward quickly, while ensuring due diligence, so that residents can drive down an Ontario St. to downtown that befits the direction our community is headed.