Thorold Mayor Ted Luciani laughed when asked if he has ever seen so much development within his city.
“No,” he said. “There’s your short answer.”
There are hundreds of homes now under construction, and numerous hectares of property cleared to build thousands more.
“It bodes well for Thorold in the future. I think we’re looking really good. If you don’t grow, you can disappear very fast,” Luciani said. “We have tremendous growth ahead.”
Although the city has had building booms in the past such as the Confederation Heights subdivision, he said that took “years and years” to complete. But now, developers are wasting no time with current projects.
“We’re growing and we’re growing the tax base,” said Luciani, a two-term mayor and lifelong Thorold resident. “It’s positive. It’s all good.”
Luciani said the growth the city is seeing is part of the same “Toronto phenomenon” happening throughout the region.
“First of all you have people cashing in their $1.5-million home and coming down here where they can get a brand new home for $500,000,” he said. “They’re living in a nice area with no big-city stress. They’re retiring and they’re coming down here.”
The GO train making its way into Niagara in the years to come has opened the doors of local communities “to young GTAers,” who can’t afford to buy homes in the big city.
“They’re saying GO is coming here, let’s go live in Niagara and commute for four years,” Luciani said. “We can keep our well-paying jobs in the GTA and we can afford a house in Niagara. That’s the demographic that’s coming down here.”
In addition to the real estate prices, Luciani suspects Niagara’s lifestyle is having an impact, too.
He stepped outside his Thorold home, across Chapel Street from a tourist information centre, and counted five cars parked nearby with bike racks on them.
“It just gives you an idea … It tells you where Niagara is going. We’ve put in some tremendous trails and they’re very popular with people from the GTA. You always see people from Toronto down here cycling,” he said.
“Niagara has a lot to offer anyone from the GTA. If you want a slower pace of life, come to Niagara.”
Niagara home builders are doing their best to meet the demand.
Luciani said Merritt Meadows subdivision being built on the south of Merritt Road on the city’s southern border with Welland includes 285 homes, and many of them have already been completed.
“But right next door is another development underway and that’s about 400 homes, right at the border with Welland,” Luciani said. “They’re actually putting pipes in now.”
Across Merritt Road, on the east side of Highway 406, Empire Legacy is building 550 to 600 homes in the Port Robinson Estates subdivision.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Rolling Meadows subdivision was given approval to add an additional 400 homes to the growing subdivision off Davis Road.
Already, more than 150 new homes that have been built in that subdivision with 100 more to go under the existing contract. When that development is complete in a few decades, Luciani said there will be about 2,500 homes in the area.
In addition to the projects underway, several additional large-scale developments are now making way through the approval process.
City councillors spent three hours of a four-hour meeting discussing development proposals Tuesday night, including Decew Terrace — a 79-home development planned for the north side of Beaverdams and Decew roads, including 34 single detached homes, 24 townhouses and 21 condominiums. As well, 45 townhouses are being proposed for the former site of a school on Richmond Street, despite opposition from neighbours.
The new subdivisions under construction in the area are connecting to water and sewer pipes feeding into Niagara Region treatment plants in nearby Welland.
Luciani said the developments were made possible because of a recent $28-million investment in the treatment plants in Welland, as well as an additional $1.5 million to extend services under Highway 406 to serve Port Robinson Estates. He said another waste treatment plant has been proposed in Niagara Falls to serve future growth in southeast Thorold.
Although residential development seems to be booming in the city, Luciani said promoting industrial and commercial development has posed more of a challenge.
“Of course that’s more difficult, but we hope to get some success in that area,” he said.
Regional population growth projections say Thorold will reach about 30,000 people by 2041 — up from its current population of 18,800, while the region as a whole is expected to grow to about 610,000 people. But considering the current development in the area, Luciani suspects that projection might fall short.
“From what I’m seeing now, I think the projection is low. I think there’s going to be a lot of people living in Thorold.”
By Allan Benner, The Standard