The new owners of the long-empty hospital site on Queenston Street have plans to demolish the building and create a multi-residential development.
Michael Corrado, a partner in Queenston Oakdale Limited of Ancaster, said a design is being worked on that will likely include a mix of innovative townhouses in an urban village setting.
Any plans are preliminary at this stage as the partners recently acquired the 11-acre property in December.
“It’s a fantastic large infill site,” Corrado said. “To find a property that large in an inner city neighbourhood is pretty rare and unique.”
The old St. Catharines General Hospital has been empty since March 2013 when the new hospital complex opened in west St. Catharines.
Prior to the closure, Panoramic Properties Inc.-Butera group signed a deal with Niagara Health System in 2012 to buy the building once it no longer served as a functioning hospital. The company’s plan was to build residential units inside the existing structure. They submitted a site plan agreement in early 2016.
But despite anticipated construction, residents and businesses saw an empty building since the last patient was transferred out.
Corrado said his group had been looking for a property to develop in the St. Catharines area but the hospital site was not on the market before.
His group have built other projects around Hamilton, Ancaster, Burlington, Muskoka, Brantford and Port Dover.
They’ve hired St. Catharines architect Michael Allen from ACK Architects, who worked on the hospital site with the previous owners, to come up with a new concept.
Corrado said they liked the previous owners plans for the property, but would rather build new than renovate the old building.
“We prefer to start with a clean canvas and create something from scratch,” Corrado said. “It’s going to be a showplace when it’s done.”
He said they’re planning predominantly low-rise construction and are considering townhouses of various sizes and shapes, though that could change.
“Obviously we would get a higher density if we went up, however, we believe townhouses are the perfect product for that site,” Corrado said.
Corrado said they’d like to see activity on the site as soon as possible but it’s a work in progress. Demolition and construction will take time. They’re working on the style, design and theme for the neighbourhood. It’s already zoned residential so they just have to do a site plan.
Their hope is to start pre-marketing and preregistering buyers in the spring or summer. He’s met with Merritton city councillors, the mayor and city senior staff.
“We are very happy working with them. They been very accommodating and helpful and enthusiastic, as we are,” he said.
Mayor Walter Sendzik said the city hasn’t seen any plans officially but Corrado has a vision, is committed and is very forward-thinking in terms of developments the company has worked on previously.
“I’m looking forward to seeing his plans come to the city and then being able to engage with his company and maximize the amazing potential of the old general hospital,” Sendzik said.
“From my perspective, we’ve got someone who is going to be actively involved, a participant at the table that will, from my perspective, accelerate the opportunities that exist with that site.”
Merritton Coun. Dave Haywood said it would be nice if there was greening on the site and a mix of affordable housing within it. But most of all, he’d just like to see something happen.
“Either way, it would be nice to see it developed instead of it being a little bit of an eyesore right now.”
Haywood said residents have been patient. When he was first elected, the previous developers told him the project would be almost complete in three years. Three years later, it’s still pretty much the same as it was before, he said.
“Even if things move at a good pace, it’s probably still another three to five years out before anything’s happening on site, so you have to feel for the businesses on the street because they’ve been patient. They’re waiting for something too, because they’re depending on it.”
Merritton Coun. Jennie Stevens said nearby business owners are feeling positive about a new owner taking over the property and hope to see movement soon.
“Speaking to the business owners, they’re pretty excited about it. They’re welcoming him with open arms,” she said.
She said Corrado’s been upfront and seems like he wants to get at it.
“It’s going to be very exciting. I think he’s going to move quickly on it,” she said. “It has been an eyesore for too long.”
Panoramic Properties Inc.-Butera Group have not responded to repeated calls from The Standard inquiring about why they chose not to go through with the development.