Big plans remain for Lybster Mill site in Merritton 12
By Doug Herod, The Standard
Forever etched in my memory is standing in the middle of the old vacant Domtar factory in the spring of 2004 and listening to new owner Donatelli talk of his desire to eventually transform a section of the sprawling plant into an upscale inn. To which I thought: “Huh???”
Should have known better than to doubt the developer who a few years earlier had transformed a dilapidated old industrial structure on Glendale Ave. into what would become The Keg building.
So I’m prepared to give the proprietor of the Stone Mill Inn the benefit of the doubt for a project that some might term grandiose.
Here’s the sketch:
There’s an underground, 35-vehicle parking garage left over from Domtar days that is adjacent to the north side of the Lybster Mill building. It’s an 11,000-square-foot footprint, said Donatelli, that his engineers tell him can support an eight-storey building.
One floor could accommodate 10 units averaging 1,000 square feet, which would translate into a total of 80 units.
The location is a good fit for a major residential complex, he noted, because of the neighbouring commercial establishments that are within easy walking distance.
“We’re not talking Port Dalhousie multi-million-dollar per unit. We’re talking $250,000 to $350,000 per unit. It’s what works in the community, it’s what’s affordable,” he said.
Let’s be clear here. This project isn’t happening next week. There are a number of hurdles.
First of all, CN still owns the land behind the Lybster Mill where once a spur line ran atop a berm on the property.
That land is needed to provide all the parking required for the condo development.
Donatelli said he’s not concerned about reaching an agreement with CN for the 3.5-acre strip of land from the main CN line (near Elm St.) to Glendale Ave. More problematic is dealing with he what says is the million tons of stone in the doomed berm.
He said he needs to find buyers for the stone in order for the property’s purchase price to make sense.
As for any city planning issues, Donatelli doesn’t foresee difficulties.
“The height restriction is four storeys, but they’re happy to see me go eight,” he said of the city.
Judy Pihach, St. Catharines’ manager of planning services, said nothing has been formally submitted, making it difficult to comment on how the proposal might be ultimately received by city planners.
However, given its location near major roads and commercial activity, Pihach said she’s “cautiously optimistic” the development would be in line with the city’s residential growth plans.
If it does eventually fly, the development may not be Donatelli’s.
“I need a break. I don’t know whether I’m going to just plan it and let somebody else do it. Nine-and-a-half years of making this work is exhausting.”