Intensification by the GO - Grimsby grows
Dec. 6, 2017
By Dominik Matusik
Despite some initial industry reluctance, developers and planners in Grimsby are now embracing density and intensification, and the town is experiencing strong development activity.
In 2009, Grimsby council approved the Winston Road Neighbourhood Secondary Plan, which encouraged midrise built form in a greenfield area close to the waterfront.
Ward 4 Alderman Nick DiFlavio told NRU that initially developers were reluctant to build more densely. However, once it became evident that there is a market for mid-rises and high-rises, there has been significant development activity.
"At first, there was reluctance," he says. "To give an example: there was a large parcel of land that was right on the lake that was a very important one, because in order for the entire neighbourhood to be developed, that one needed to be developed... There were no other high-rise condos in Grimsby and [the developer was] reluctant because they wanted to build a product that they thought they could sell. They originally came with townhouses, which is easy to sell but not what's best for the municipality. And we kept pushing it back and pushing it back, and we got mid-rise, five storeys... And then another one came in closer to Casablanca [Boulevard] that was a sixstorey. Then we had a 12-storey proposal. And ever since that 12-storey, we've seen a lot of people who want to invest and put in high-rises. Because there's a market for it."
Last year, the provincial government announced the extension of GO Transit service into Niagara Region by 2021. Grimsby planning director Michael Seaman told NRU that while the announcement certainly helped to drive some this development, much of it actually predated it.
"It's a changing market for sure," he says. "... Certainly the GO announcement has helped. But we've been getting this before the GO Train. A lot of this kind of stuff was used as an example of why we should get the GO Train. But I also think that there's maybe a realization that with the changing market needs of the day, a place like Grimsby that's still within pretty good reach of the GTA and downtown Toronto... is actually a pretty good place to be."
Seaman notes that once developers started intensifying in the Winston community, which was a greenfield area, interest began to grow in redeveloping "highway commercial" uses along Winston Road, which had been planned as a main commercial street with mixed-use buildings.
He adds that development in Grimsby has been predominantly retail and residential, and there has been comparatively less employment development. However, Seaman is hopeful that a five-storey office building, which is about to be built by DeSantis, will lead to more employment construction. Niagara Region community planning manager Diana Morreale told NRU that, while many west Niagara residents travel to other municipalities for employment, not all are necessarily travelling to downtown Toronto.
"We haven't really collected the data on who's moving into the area, but we suspect that not everybody's just working in downtown Toronto," she says. "What we're finding is that a lot of the people that live in west Niagara, they work in the downtown Toronto area, but there's also the Hamilton market...and they're also working within St. Catharines and the Peel area as well... With the bonus of the GO Transit station, what that brings to the community is for those people that are working in downtown Hamilton or downtown Toronto, there's the opportunity to get off the QEW, which is basically congested most of the morning, and provide them with an alternative mode of transportation."
Grimsby staff is now developing a draft secondary plan for the Grimsby GO Station area, which will encompass the Winston neighbourhood, and promote further intensification.
DiFlavio says there has been some anti-development pushback from the community, but he argues that intensification is beneficial to local taxpayers.
"Everybody always wants to be the last person to move to Grimsby," he says. "You've got people that moved here two years ago that live in townhouses that don't want to see more townhouses built. I try to explain to people that from a political perspective you need a balance. The reason why you put high-density in certain neighbourhoods is so that you can have low-density in other neighbourhoods. You want single-detached too. You want a variety of housing types. But high-density is a good use of land. Especially since most of the municipality is greenbelted so we don't have any greenfields anymore."
Staff will hold a public meeting about its proposed GO Transit Station Secondary Plan this month.