A blank canvas ripe for large-scale redevelopment is now for sale in St. Catharines, where municipal officials aspire to create the most innovative, dynamic, sustainable and livable city in North America. The McKinnon Park property has some physical evidence of its past life as a General Motors plant—remaining buildings are optimal candidates for adaptive reuse—but the high-profile site is defined today by sweeping sections of developable land, a commodity hard to come by in a rapidly growing Niagara Region. Local planning officials have been receptive to an initial conceptual plan that introduces new city-building opportunities to the property. The future development of McKinnon Park may be facilitated through certain municipal tax incentive programs and a robust land use assessment exercise.
Representing a rare chance to convert multiple blocks into a mixed-use destination just northwest of Downtown St. Catharines, the 54.7-acre assembly covers two substantial blocks at 282 and 285 Ontario Street. These properties are under the umbrella of a city wide land-use assessment targeting parcels of employment land for conversion to residential and complementary mixed-use development. The proposed status report is scheduled to be completed by the spring of 2019, with subsequent public meetings to be held in the fall.
An existing conceptual site plan lays the groundwork for over two million square feet of potential buildable density. The residential portion proposes multiple types of housing stock totaling over 1.8 million square feet of gross floor area that would further diversify this established neighbourhood. The high density component would have a total of 1,512 units proposed in the plan, with 1,134 condominiums, 126 apartment rentals, and 96 loft rentals envisioned. The remaining units would be offered as detached, semi-detached, and townhomes. There will also be over 450,000 sq ft of commercial/office space.
An additional parcel of land at 10 Pleasant Avenue already has development approval. The Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw Amendment applications were adopted in July 2017, allowing for the construction of 12 single-detached homes, 4 semi-detached homes, and 13 townhomes.
Identified provincially as an Urban Growth Centre under the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the tight housing market in the Greater Toronto Area has pushed homebuyers farther afield, helping to fuel residential development across more affordable municipalities in Niagara Region. The McKinnon Park property is located just two kilometres from the St. Catharines GO Train Station and as Metrolinx expands service to the city year-round, commuting to and from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area is increasingly viable.
The City of St. Catharines has also implemented several financial incentive programs under its Community Improvement Plan to stimulate local development. The McKinnon Park property is eligible for two such programs, including the Brownfield Tax Assistance Program, which offers tax reimbursement to property owners for up to three years to offset brownfield remediation costs.
Located within a designated Priority Neighbourhood, the lands are also eligible for the Tax Increment Finance Program to assist brownfield remediation and private sector redevelopment projects. The program calculates an annual grant, provided for up to ten years, based on the increase in property tax assessment arising out of the project's completion.
The McKinnon Park property offers investors a chance to master plan a new community, a city within a city, in an established neighbourhood. With quick access to QEW, Brock University, hospital and retail amenities along Fourth Avenue and Ontario Street, McKinnon Park's footprint makes it one of the largest mixed-use sites on the market in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, presenting a blank canvas to create over two million square feet of potential buildable density.