A long-stalled Port Dalhousie development is back in the game, with a proposed shorter tower and terraced new look.
On Wednesday, Fortress Real Developments unveiled plans for a Union Waterfront condo development.
The 12-storey development, covering a partly-razed parcel of land by Lakeside Park, would take place in two phases and include a retail component.
It makes use of Hogan’s Alley as a centrepiece and includes a courtyard.
“We are here to celebrate a new beginning,” said Vince Petrozza, chief operating officer of Fortress Real Developments at an outdoor event held at Lock Street Brewing Co. in Port Dalhousie.
Developers acknowledged they’ll have to start from scratch with a new development application. A pre-application process is to take place soon with city staff for the 0.45-hectare (1.5-acre) project.
The existing design of the formerly-named Port Place project, which had included a 17-storey, 80-unit condo tower, hotel, shopping and theatre, was approved by the Ontario Municipal Board in 2009.
Fortress — originally a financier on Port Place — acquired the delayed project in January 2015.
The early Union Waterfront plan is for up to 170 residential units in the first phase, ranging from 550 to more than 1,000 square feet, with balconies or terraces. The ground floor will have commercial retail.
Phase 2, still being finalized, could have about 60 units and be six to eight storeys.
There are no plans for a hotel or theatre, but possibly a community hub site in Phase 2. Parking would all be underground.
Condo prices have not yet been set, but they will be less expensive than previous pricing.
An initial project development cost of about $70 million was cited. The partner for the project is Kirkor Architects + Planners in Toronto.
During the presentation Wednesday, Petrozza explained that the “union” in the development represents “what we think is the responsibility here.”
“It’s our responsibility to bring together this beautiful heritage district, this amazing piece of real estate and the opportunity to bring the future and past together in union.”
Petrozza said it’s believed it’ll take about a year to “open up the plan again” and go through the municipal planning process. Once the approvals happen, the sales process begins, he said.
If all goes well, construction is possible by late 2018, with building taking about two years. “Fortress has the resolve, the commitment to get this process done,” he said in his speech.
“Obviously we inherited a project that wasn’t working, didn’t make sense and now we’ve made the pivot necessary to make that work,” he said, adding the company has a track record of getting projects done.
David Butterworth, a partner-architect from Kirkor, gave an overview of the proposal intended to be a “placemaker.”
“We wanted to put something in place that would be contextually built for the site,” Butterworth said, adding that includes opening up Hogan’s Alley. “From that we wanted to create this courtyard approach in the middle of it, which we thought would start to become the life-centre of this project.
A “gardens in the sky” concept includes “big terraces where people would really enjoy the waterfront … and the area around it.”
At the proposal unveiling, Mayor Walter Sendzik commented on recent announcements in the region, including GO Transit expansion into Niagara and an affordable housing complex for St. Catharines.
“You see a lot of momentum being built, you see where we’re going,” he said, also noting recent entrepreneurial investments and enhancements in Port Dalhousie.
As for Fortress, “from the get-go, they have had an open line of communication and … open dialogue,” Sendzik said. “There is a process that’s in front of us, but we’re all here because we’re interested in seeing a revitalized Port Dalhousie.
“We want to make sure we’re working hand-in-hand with all the partners that are going to be at the table,” he said. “This is the jewel of our community, this is the lakefront we all treasure.”
In an interview, Port Dalhousie Coun. Carlos Garcia — a critic of previous development proposals there — said the new design is “certainly more attractive than what we had before.”
“I’m a bit concerned about the height.”
Wolfgang Guembel, a Port Dalhousie businessman and chair of the Port Dalhousie Business Association, said the development “for sure is a positive thing and it comes with the right attitude.”
“Right from the beginning, they’ve been open and willing to work with people,” he said in an interview.
Guembel said the development company, in conversations he’s had, also seems to “see the bigger picture.”
“Anyone who asks a question how ‘high is it going to be?’ is asking the wrong question,” he said, adding those questions should include how will the new tax revenue benefit the community, and how do we ensure green space is protected, and recreation space enhanced.
“And what components to this type of economic development that are going to make the quality of life in Port Dalhousie better?” he continued.
“Height means nothing … you could make it six storeys and have bad planning.”
In an e-mail, Mishka Balsom, president and CEO of Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, called the development “a welcome investment in our region, especially at a time when Niagara is experiencing a real estate boom.”
“The envisioned project seems to have taken into consideration concerns from local residents,” she said. “We are looking forward to discover more details in the months to come.”