Downtown St. Catharines is designated an Urban Growth Centre by the province. Being hemmed in by the Greenbelt, it’s just as well; the city has run out of room for any more single-family detached homes. Future residential growth will have to come from the core anyway, so it’s good to have support from a higher level of government.
The city’s Downtown Creative Cluster Master Plan is now available online [pdf]. Hopefully, present and future city councils pay attention. I’ll admit, I skimmed most of the 119 pages, but what I read made sense.
Some recommendations from the plan:
Improve the streetscape. Widen sidewalks to accommodate pedestrian traffic. Plant trees. Use articulated paving stones. Good stuff like that.
Greater quantity and quality of public parking. The car rules in St. Catharines and cannot be ignored. The Carlisle parking structure needs to be rebuilt, and the lower-level parking lot needs a better connection to the rest of Downtown.
Respect heritage buildings. For example, the west end of St. Paul Street, with it’s three-story, nineteenth-century brick buildings, is safe from the wrecking ball. Buildings at the east end of the street that were constructed more recently, and with less concern for pedestrians and other unprofitable frivolities, are ripe for redevelopment.
In short, the plan says the basics are in place for Downtown’s future, but it’s going to take a lot of work to get a vibrant and livable finished product.