News

HEROD: Upscale condos planned for ex-downtown gas building

By Doug Herod

The former Provincial Gas building at the corner of Church St. and William St. Thursday December 1, 2016. Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network

The former Provincial Gas building at the corner of Church St. and William St. Thursday December 1, 2016. Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network

A new year brings hope for a brighter future.

That’s certainly the mantra of many political leaders who embody such elan on behalf of their communities.

And so it is that St. Catharines Mayor Walter waxed enthusiastic about the city’s prospects for 2017 in a Standard story earlier this week.

Good for him. And I wish the mayor and city council well in achieving their goals this year.

One passage in the news article was of particular interest to me.

It was when he suggested there would be “considerable activity taking place” this year at previously moribund properties.

One of those mentioned was the old Consumer Gas building at 15 Church St.

The six-storey edifice has different identifications depending on the length of your memory. Oldtimers may refer to it as the Provincial Gas building, its moniker when opened in 1967. Relative newcomers may know it as the Eyesore on Church given its sorry, empty look the past several years.

At any rate, it has, as Sendzik noted, been purchased recently, with the deal set to close next week.

The buyer is Edward Ulrich. He also owns Basic Industries Glazing in Beamsville and retirement home Niagara Gardens in St. Catharines, on Niagara St. at the QEW.

Ulrich has interesting plans for his new digs. He wants to transform it into an upscale residential condo building.

It would have 35 units, ranging in size from 1,000 square feet to 1,800 square feet. They would feature 11-foot-high ceilings and be wired with the latest in smart technology.

The units would be listed at between $400,000-450,000.

Only the top five floors would house the residential units. The ground floor would be commercial space.

A surface parking lot already exists adjacent to the building. Ulrich said he would build another level below it.

One more thing. He’s intrigued by the idea of incorporating a three-storey, illuminated spire atop the building, something that would make the condo a beacon throughout the downtown and beyond.

And he wants to move quickly.

Ulrich said he’d like to have a model suite ready for view by the end of February, and the project built out by the end of the year.

Phew!

He acknowledged this outlook is “rather aggressive.” However, he isn’t daunted by the challenge.

“If it had 135 units, I’d be concerned. But not with 35.”

Of course, like all condo projects, pre-sales matter. Ulrich said the usual benchmark is 70% of units sold before construction begins, although he’d be prepared to start if half are spoken for.

As befits someone promoting a project in this location, Ulrich, a Denis Morris grad from back in the day, said he loves what has happened in the downtown — the Meridian Centre, the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, the new Burgoyne Bridge — noting the initiatives have completely changed the vibe in the core.

“This is an experiment for me,” he said of his condo project, noting if it goes well he could move forward on similar projects.

There you go. Your hope-for-a-brighter-future boost of the month.

Mind you, similar sentiments were expressed in the spring of 2011 when the city and Serenity Developments held a joint news conference to chat up a proposed $20-million makeover of the 15 Church St. building.

Serenity boss Mo Zadeh said the 70,000 square-foot structure would be refashioned as an upscale apartment dwelling for aging baby boomers and seniors, containing up to 101 studio and one-bedroom apartments.

That didn’t work out as planned.

Three years ago the appeal to boomers and seniors was dropped in favour of a proposed rental apartment dwelling that would cater to students. A site plan submitted to the city called for a seventh floor to be added that would result in enough space to accommodate 100 residential units, a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.

Windows would be replaced, and brick-and-stucco cladding would replace the existing exterior look.

The new proposal was born without hoopla and died in equal anonymity.

But that was then, this is 2017.

Let positivity reign!

dherod.niagara@gmail.com