Sendzik sees ‘bright horizon’ for St. Catharines in 2020
by Melinda Cheevers Niagara This Week – St. Catharines
As the calendar changes to a new year — and a new decade — there’s plenty on the horizon for the Garden City says Mayor Walter Sendzik.
The City of St. Catharines had plenty of positive highlights in 2019, he said, including the surprise announcement and moving up of GO service to the area, funding for the piers in Port Dalhousie, the Canada Summer Games getting fully funded and ground broken on a new facility adjacent to Brock University. The speediness of approvals for two projects in Port Dalhousie — Rankin’s development and the Lincoln Fabrics project — was heartening, as was the ongoing changes to downtown St. Catharines.
In particular, Sendzik said he was happy to see the area’s culinary scene celebrated on the national stage with restaurants like Dispatch, OddBird, Bolete and the north end’s Yellow Pear, getting a lot of attention.
“You’re seeing something I don’t think the city’s ever seen before: The drive of business through the culinary arts,” he said. “There’s a real energy around St. Catharines and it’s becoming an urban culinary centre … it’s changing the look of St. Catharines for the better and I think we’ll be better for it in the long term.”
Movements like this, he said, can change the dynamic of a community. Whether it’s through the culinary or creative arts, when it takes hold it starts to change not only how the city is viewed, but how the city views itself.
Moving out of 2019, and the 2010s as a whole, one thing the mayor is looking forward to closing the door on is the negative perception people have generally had about St. Catharines in the not-so-distant past.
“I think we’ve closed the door on, I hope, people viewing the city as a ‘has been’ city and now it’s a ‘has’ city — a city on the rise,” he said. “A negative view of St. Catharines as an old industrial town that’s gone nowhere, to that of a city that only has a bright horizon in front of it.”
As for what’s to come, Sendzik identified five things the municipality will be focused on in 2020:
• Affordable housing: Looking at properties in the city, and what developers are doing across the region to determine if they’re accelerating the growth of affordable and social housing in Niagara.
• Income and growth: Maintain a continued focus on attracting and supporting economic opportunity. A good example of that growth, he said, is Accenture. Operating out of Corbloc on King Street, the company started with 300-plus employees and is projected to expand to as many as 800 employees as it grows its footprint.
“We want to continue to focus on that kind of economic activity,” said Sendzik.
• Public transit: The focus will shift to the amalgamation of transit systems within Niagara, and St. Catharines will be working with Niagara Falls and Welland to bring that to fruition. They’ll be reviewing the governance model coming forward in 2020 and council will be tasked with making some big decisions.
“It’s long overdue,” said Sendzik, adding that if they’re concerned about the environment and concerned about affordability, public transit is the way to go.
• Climate: While the city has taken some steps to manage its own footprint, it’s focusing now on working with the community to move away from plastic water bottles, and plastic straws. The city hired a climate change co-ordinator and Sendzik said he was supportive of biweekly garbage pickup starting in 2021.
“Those are pieces of sustainability around climate change,” he said. “We’ll see more of a focus from a lot of different places in the environmental side of things.”
• Homelessness: The city will be working to get to a functional zero around homelessness, ensuring people who are homeless are housed and people entering homelessness are taken out of that as quickly as possible. They’ll be working with the region and a lot of agencies are involved.