While it’s unlikely that St. Catharines will shrug off its Garden City nickname any time soon, the “Purchasing Power Capital of Ontario” does have a certain appeal, and Sphere Developments president Rohan Gawri knows it.

With only Regina ranking higher on the Canadian Local Purchasing Power Index compiled by the Numbeo cost-of-living consultancy, the half-million-dollar starting prices for the 106 units in Sphere’s new LOT 16 townhome project “appeal to first-time homebuyers who are looking for an affordable lifestyle,” Gawri says. “This encompasses people like newlyweds and smaller families, with a lot of folks in Toronto looking in our direction because 90 percent of our suites, including three-bedrooms, are priced under $700,000.”

Ranging from 900-square-foot two bedrooms to 1,400-square-foot three-bedroom-plus-dens, all of the open-concept units in LOT 16’s three-storey stacked townhomes include nine-foot ceilings, quartz countertops, undermount sinks, soaker bathtubs, and oversized windows framing views of the surrounding creek and trail system. Some units have private balconies and rooftop terraces.

“Our approach to LOT 16’s interiors started from the idea of attainable homes that do not compromise on design,” says Diane Paz, principal of the MAPA Interiors team involved in the project. “Entering into home ownership is a major milestone, and we wanted future residents to look at their new homes feeling a sense of pride. We wanted to deliver a comfortable and functional space that still has opportunities for personal touches.”

The LOT 16 site at 16 Melbourne Avenue was zoned for an eight-storey building, but Sphere opted to limit both density and onsite amenities in favour of larger suites and connections to the surrounding environment, explains Alexandre Bourgeois, senior project coordinator for the architectural firm KNYMH Inc. “We were able to create a building that fits right into the fabric of its location but still stands out, and most importantly includes features that make living comfortable for its residents.”

While onsite amenities are limited to above-ground parking and bike storage, neighbourhood amenities are plentiful. Nearby, the verdant Canal Valley cradles city-spanning Merritt Trail; Princess Park provides an extensive playground; and Richard Pierpoint Park is home to a community garden, tables and a pavilion for picnicking, as well as an 18-hole disc golf course. The city-run Garden City golf course, an 18-hole executive track, is also within walking distance.

“In a Toronto condo, you have the ability to walk downstairs and go to any restaurant you like. At LOT 16, it’s more about heading outside and walking down a beautiful trail,” Gawri says. “It’s a different type of lifestyle, and one that is inherently more affordable.”

Further afield, that lifestyle is supported by conservation areas such as Rockway, Woodend and Jordan Harbour, by double-digit wineries that are all less than 20 minutes away by car, and by Niagara Falls-bound trains that depart the St. Catharines GO Station three times a day.

Occupancy is slated for the fall of 2025. For more information, visit lotsixteen.ca

 Three things

Hoverlink Ontario is slated to launch 30-minute hovercraft voyages between St. Catharines and downtown Toronto during the summer of 2024. hoverlinkontario.com

The 95,000-square-foot FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre features four venues: A 770-seat concert hall, a 300-seat recital hall, a 210-seat multi-purpose dance/theatre venue, and a 199-seat cinema. 250 St. Paul Street

Just west of St. Catharines, the 13th Street Winery placed first in the 2022 National Wine Awards’ top winery in Ontario, and received 20 medals for its vintages. 1776 Fourth Ave.

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