‘The End of an era’ or ‘A new opportunity’?

As a surprise to no one, operations are beginning to wind down at the Ontario St. GM plant.  By the end of this year, all employees are expected to be finished at the plant, either moving over to the Glendale plant or retiring.  The CAW believes the job losses should be cancelled out due to the new operations at Glendale.

The closing is not a happy development, as anyone who has lived in a city like St. Catharines will tell you; least of all during a recession.  It does, however, give the city an opportunity to do something productive and useful with the land, which is in a great location in this city.  At present, it is zoned as medium density residential.

I think it would be a mistake to simply throw up a new residential neighbourhood.

For starters, building a Carlton St. – Grapeview connecting bridge is a necessity.  The closing of the Martindale on-ramp this fall proved that downtown accessibility is severely limited in the West end, and building a bridge across 12 mile creek would be a huge improvement on the current situation.

Some residential would be a good idea as well, but if we are trying to intensify the residential situation in the city, why not look to build a condo complex.  Something bold, different looking.  A commenter in the linked article suggested looking to the Toronto Distillery district for ideas – not a bad suggestion.

The article also suggested the potential of placing the proposed new spectator facility on the site, as opposed to the lower level parking lot behind St. Paul St. where it is being proposed now.  I’m a firm believer that all of the eggs of this city shouldn’t be in the same basket – spread the economic well-being around the city.  With other commercial possibilities, the area could be a great addition to the service industry in St. Catharines.

There are a myriad of possibilities; some are blindingly obvious, others would require a little bit of work and imagination.  The biggest mistake the city can make is to allow the 43 acres of real estate to be wasted on yet another every-house-looks-the-same neighbourhood.

Let’s hope the leadership of this city has the courage to make a decision that benefits all the citizens of St. Catharines when the time comes.

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