Keen observers of the local political scene may recall St. Catharines city council recently focused its collective gaze on a municipally owned patch of grass next to the Keg parking lot at the corner of Glendale Ave. and Mountain St.
At issue was whether to declare the patch surplus to the city's needs and offer it for sale.
The prospective buyer would be the owners of the Keg property. Their intentions are to transform the 0.24-acre patch into a few additional parking spots.
Selling to the private sector did not sit well with some on council. They, along with assorted canal heritage buffs, feared private-sector ownership would torpedo future attempts to improve access to nearby Mountain Locks Park. The park's boosters hold out hope that dormant civic plans to rejuvenate the old Welland Canal site can be realized one day.
It is, indeed, a park that has interesting potential.
But the city's parks department told the
aforementioned hand wringers to chill out. Parks staff said the patch of grass in question matters not a whit in bringing Mountain Locks Park to future glory.
As a not inconsiderable aside, the buyer-in-waiting, Nino Donatelli, has almost single-handedly raised the profile of that stretch of Glendale to the point where heavily investing in the park might actually make sense.
Nice potential message city council would be sending to business, eh? Thanks for spending millions turning a frog into a prince, but we're depriving you of a small piece of adjacent property our staff doesn't believe we need.
At any rate, sanity prevailed and the patch was declared surplus.
During the discussion that night, it was noted the lands east of the Keg -- all part of the same property ownership on Glendale -- were about to be developed.
A chat with the local representative of the soon-to- be new owners confirmed development is nigh.
Stephen Kaiser said Crownview Holdings Inc., a Toronto commercial developer, is "right on the cusp" of filing a formal site application with the city.
The plan calls for a standalone bank building at the property's north-east quadrant (near Kaupp Electric), a "recognizable" restaurant (Donatelli has been telling me for two years it's Swiss Chalet moving from the Pen) and a 1,080 square metre (about 12,000 square foot) building that can be divided into a number of commercial/retail units.
Kaiser said Crownview, which re-fashioned the Fonthill Plaza on Regional Rd. 20 a few years ago, wants the new development to complement as best it can the iconic Keg building, a former 19th century industrial structure.
"We're trying to add some features that you wouldn't see as standard on these types of buildings. Hopefully, when we come up with the final site plan ... we'll have everybody nodding and happy and ready to move forward."
The sale of the Glendale site to Crownview from Donatelli's Merritton Development Inc. awaits Ministry of the Environment sign-off on the property's clean-up, an approval that's expected shortly.
Kaiser said Crownview hopes to break ground on the site in September and have some openings next spring.
Say, maybe one of the retail units will be a high-end, licenced cafe where one can read a book in quiet surroundings while sipping wine and ... zzzzzzzzz.