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‘Abundance of opportunities’ for St. Catharines says Sendzik

‘Abundance of opportunities’ for St. Catharines says Sendzik

‘Abundance of opportunities’ for St. Catharines says Sendzik

Niagara This Week – St. Catharines

Photo credit: Melinda Cheevers, Metroland

ST. CATHARINES — Walter Sendzik, mayor of the City of St. Catharines, is taking an optimistic approach to 2017.

Looking back on the past year, he said there were many successes to be celebrated from a variety of sectors, starting with the World Junior’s Women U18 hockey tournament at the Meridian Centre.

“I say that as a success because it demonstrated two things; one is we broke the record for attendance for world junior U18 womens; and two is it really brought the community out to support hockey and support womens’ hockey which I think is really important,” he said. “You see how that tournament galvanized our community, and it was really an exciting moment for us to participate in something like that and set a new benchmark for attendance.”

Sendzik also referenced the opening of Ikea’s pick up and order point in the Fairview Mall as a success, calling it a ‘watershed moment’.

“Ikea is a global brand and they don’t move into just any community,” he said. “They do a lot of homework, they do a lot of research and all of the researched pointed toward St. Catharines as a place for their centre.”

Another big moment was the opening of two new student residences by PenTerra. The $50-million investment into two buildings in the City’s downtown marked the first multi-residential units built above three stories in that area in decades.

“It brings a youthful vitality to our downtown with more than 450 students coming in and now living in the downtown space,” said Sendzik, adding it changed the dynamics of the downtown.

Those three different successes, Sendzik said, one about community, one about business and one about the vitality of the downtown, demonstrate how as a city, St. Catharines is moving forward.

“It shows how we’re growing our city and from a future-looking perspective, there continues to be an abundance of opportunities for us to seize as a community,” said Sendzik.

That’s not to say 2016 didn’t have its challenges. The mayor said from a council perspective there are lessons to be learned for the year and one of them stems from the Lakeside Park pavilion.

“(It) took so long to move its way through council. As a person with a business background that was very frustrating,” he said. “We have to do a better job of shortening our decision making process while making sure we’re inclusive of community input and making sure the decisions we make are in the best interest of the community.”

What should have been a three or four month discussion took over a year and put the City behind on its planned revitalization of Lakeside Park.

“That’s a significant lesson and I think council sees now that we have to deal with the decisions that are put in front of us, instead of deferring decisions,” he said, adding that overall he thinks it’s been an effective year on council. “We’ve gotten through a lot of big projects in terms of things that are happening in the city and developments that are happening in the city.”

Looking forward to the year ahead, Sendzik said there will be a couple of different projects coming down the pipeline including redevelopments of the Hotel Dieu site and former General Hospital site, as well as continued investment in parks across the city. On the event horizon, there’s the Scotties Tournament of Hearts taking place in February and upcoming community celebrations marking Canada’s 150th anniversary.

The most significant issue coming forward this year?

“Inter-municipal transit,” said Sendzik. “I think that the time has come for us to really make a decision on ‘what does transit look like in Niagara’, not just St. Catharines and trying to build a system that is truly integrated that is regional in scope and moves people from our community to the communities of Welland and Niagara Falls and vice versa in an affordable way, in an effective way, so that people can get to their jobs or schools or medical appointments and they don’t have to rely on a car.”

He said the City will have the opportunity to take a leadership role in building the future of transit in Niagara.

“That’s going to be the focus and priority number one.”