Bringing new life to downtown St. Catharines

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From the mid-1960s to the mid-2010s, the downtown of St. Catharines has been on the skids! It has never recovered from a typical 1.5 mill. sq. ft. regional shopping centre being built 2 miles to the south, its attempts to be a Niagara Region office centre are lukewarm at best, two-thirds of the population have dispersed to the suburbs since World War II, and new institutional development has sought a suburban campus. A glimmer of hope has happened in the last decade.

A partnership between Brock University and the City saw a former factory converted into the Marilyn I Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts and the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre with its four theatre spaces was built next to it on the main downtown street. Nearby is the new Meridian Centre, a 5000-seat hockey rink and large theatre. Meanwhile, Brock's 18,000 students have resulted in new apartment housing; and students, sports patrons and arts audiences have led to more and better bars and restaurants. Wider sidewalks and traffic calming measures are encouraging pedestrians and eating (and, god forbid, perhaps drinking) outside. Who knows, perhaps awnings and heaters could extend the outdoor season.

These are exciting times for the downtown of a medium-size Canadian city.

Hugh G