Neighbourhood will balance “busy main road vibe” and “calm low-rise density vibe.”

A neighbourhood of 223 stacked townhouse units is being planned for the former Ukrainian Black Sea Hall banquet centre property in St. Catharines.

The 2.23-hectare site at 455 Welland Ave. was listed for sale in April 2015 and has changed ownership a couple of times since then.

It was acquired by Mississauga-based Sphere Developments in spring 2022. It plans to start pre-construction sales for condominium-style units this fall.

President of Sphere Developments, Rohan Gawri, said the location was an attraction.

“I think it’s one of the top locations in the entire city. You’re extremely close to major amenities, you’ve got Walmart, major malls within a couple of minutes’ driving distance. You’re right off the QEW. It’s on a main street,” Gawri said.

Gawri said while the property fronts a busy street, it has the benefit of extending back to a low-rise residential neighbourhood at the rear. The plan will include 12 units of commercial space facing Welland Avenue and 223 residential units in stacked townhouses inside the development.

He said people will be coming and going from the commercial spaces but people living inside the blocks will get a neighbourhood feel.

“It allows us to be able to go from the busy main road vibe to the calm and low-rise density vibe by the back end.”

St. Catharines development expeditor Evan Acs said in an email the city is processing the site plan approval application for the units and 500 square metres of commercial space.

Access to the site will be off Welland and Grantham avenues with pedestrian-only access to Myrtle Avenue.

Acs said the current community commercial zoning generally permits the proposed development, but a minor variance application still has to be submitted to address some zoning deficiencies before site plan approvals.

Gawri said the development company is working on the details at this time and finalizing the site plan.

“We’ve gone through, honestly, a number of iterations of different ideas of what we’re going to do in different configurations. That’s actually why it’s taken some time,” he said.

He said the homes will be set up in 10 blocks of different sizes to allow for as much green space as possible. Units will have one to three bedrooms, which Gawri believes will attract a wide range of buyers with different needs.

Prices haven’t been determined but Gawri said attainability is a main focus for the company when it creates and designs homes.

The company has two other projects in Niagara.

A development of 104 units is in the construction phase at 16 Melbourne Ave. near Westchester Crescent in St. Catharines, while in Welland, a 72-townhouse development at 526 Ontario Rd. is going through the approval process.

Gawri said Niagara is a market people have started to notice over the past few years as residents from Hamilton and Toronto look at other areas to live.

“People are just starting to move around from where they are,” he said, adding they may be due to downsizing, looking for affordability or the work-from-home culture.

“Because of that, Niagara just started to work for us.”

Still, he was surprised to see the number of Greater Toronto Area purchasers for the 16 Melbourne development, which has about 10 per cent of the units left.

Gawri said the company is excited to see that first project in Niagara come alive and the first block should be done by the end of the year.

“Looking at all the activity that’s going on there, it’s exciting. And what we know we have planned for 455 Welland makes it even more exciting,” he said.

“I can’t wait ‘til October when we can actually release all this stuff — the price points, the floor plans, the conceptual renderings that we’re talking about, because it’s definitely an exciting project to be part of.”

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