As a Realtor who grew up in St. Catharines in the 1990s, I thought of it as any teenager would: St. Catharines was an “old people” town with nothing to do! To be fair, the city was in a bit of a decline. Businesses in the downtown core were suffering and declining in response to developments like the Pen Centre megamall and other economic shifts. In the early 2000s, I remember walking around the city with my dad noticing all the closed stores and restaurants and overall “ghost town” feel.
That sad, declining flower of the 90s has had a clear resurgence, from a hipstery-cool downtown to a reviving Port Dalhousie beach-life district. St. Catharines just happens to be the Niagara city where I live, and I find myself extremely busy these days checking out new things all around town. Our lakeside area of Port Dalhousie, which is a heritage district hearkening back to the 1800s, had many of its iconic buildings torn down in preparation for a condo development that failed many times over, and has sat for years in a near desolate state with a gaping hole where condos were supposed to have been (https://bit.ly/3a6zWfX). However, the past couple of years have brought about a grassroots revival by local business owners with a cool microbrewery (Lock Street Brewing Co.), Balzac’s coffee shop, and a local artisan shop (The Local Life) on the Main Street strip keeping up interest. Finally, housing developments are coming to fruition, with local company Rankin Construction buying up the famed empty lot & an old factory to create trendy loft condos, and the iconic Port Piers are being repaired and slated to re-open by 2021 after five years of no lakeside strolls (https://bit.ly/386RVkK).
Now let’s talk Downtown. It is my favourite place to be, and where I’m found most often in life. The city came up with a Garden City Plan in 2010, and since then the growth in our Downtown has been explosive: the Meridian Centre (a 5300 seat arena) was built and opened in 2014, and attracts acts as big as Elton John and Jerry Seinfeld (I tried picking up food on Elton John night…the crowds got real); a Performing Arts Centre down the road opened in 2015 showcasing tons of arts and cultural shows and events (https://tgam.ca/384pdks); shops are getting filled up with interesting & sustaining businesses like indoor local arts markets (Craft Arts Market), vegan doughnut shops that are visited by doughnut-enthusiasts from around the world (Beechwood Donuts), old cinemas repurposed into cooperative workspaces (The Lincoln); and my most favourite of improvements: world-class dining experiences in new restaurants like Dispatch Restaurant – it was actually named one of Canada’s Top 10 Restaurants by enroute in 2019! #props (https://bit.ly/3a5BOpd). And we’re not just about food, drink and entertainment (and real estate – thought I’d pop that in there again!). We’re liked by the sports community – chosen by the Canada Games to come here in 2021, and a new Canada Games Park being built at Brock University. I don’t think even an angsty teenager could say St. Catharines is an “old people town” anymore.
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