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May. 20, 2022 | Friday
Local News
Gardens project at Vintage Hotels moving forward
Paul MacIntyre, Vintage Hotels vice president of operations and Ryan Murray, Pillar and Post general manager. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

Vintage Hotels is moving ahead with the conference centre and garden project on 524 Regent St.

Paul MacIntyre, vice president of operations of Vintage Hotels, said any confusion regarding whether the development is set to move forward needed to be clarified.

“The plan is set, we haven’t diverted from that, and we’re moving forward. The sewage capacity has confused a lot of people. We have written a letter to the town saying we don’t need it right now. We will in the future when we get to that point, but we’re not there yet,” he said, adding that they don’t intend to rush the process.

“It has nothing to do with the fact that it’s not available, as these things take time. We’re not going to have an administrative building, or the conference centre built next year.”

The gardens project and conference centre will require a sewage capacity of 45,600 litres daily, which the town doesn’t have right now. MacIntyre said the completion of the waste water treatment plant should align with their timeline.

The Vintage Hotels development will be completed in phases. The first and most important phase, MacIntyre said, is the garden.

The property once held a manufacturing plant for C&C Yachts. Vintage Hotels owns the land and were eager to tear down the old warehouses that, MacIntyre said, while structurally sound, “looked horrible in the middle of a residence.”

Surface area contamination of the soil had to be managed before development could begin.

“Of course, with those boats and with the work that was done, there’s a certain amount of contamination. Resin and stuff like that. Not a lot, but we’ve just spent the last three months doing the cleanup of it, which is now done.”

Environmental clean-up of the site was overseen by Pinchin Ltd., an environmental, engineering, building science, and health & safety consulting firm.

Turning the property into a garden, MacIntyre said he is excited about the impact the green space will have on the community.

“Originally the inspiration for this project was Monet’s garden. We went to France to see Monet’s garden. It’s designed based on the inspiration of that. It’s something we’re very proud of. The vision for this property since we embarked on it, from design right through approvals of the town, has not changed.”

He said, from the beginning, it has been about the garden.

“This is a project I get to head up for the company I am incredibly proud of. It’s different for me though, because I’m used to buildings and renovations – this is a garden. It’s not something we’ve ever embarked on before. Literally, 65 per cent of this property will be greenspace.”

The gardens are being built first because it’ll have the biggest impact, he said.

“One of our philosophies behind it is that in Niagara-on-the-Lake, quality assurance is really important.

Everyone does a really good job, and we feel a garden in (NOTL) is a nice seedling to plant around our hotels, in our community and around the wineries.”

With everything that happens in NOTL, he said the development of a greenspace is a good fit.

The garden design allowed for 50 trees to remain. According to the plans, 350 new trees will be planted. Many of the new trees will be large caliber specimens, not just seedlings, he said. The design also includes 21,000 shrubs and foliage.

“Someone said that we were clear cutting. We haven’t clear cut any trees. In the site plan process that was approved by the town, and arguably the community, there were trees that were removed, because they needed to be; there were trees that were on a contaminated site.”

MacIntyre said they held three unofficial community meetings throughout the development and planning process. He said during the meetings, there was a lot of open dialogue.

“Talking is the most important part of the process. In the absence of knowing, people fear what’s happening. They begin to create new stories – and it’s not always real. I think we have the obligation to talk with people, to tell the story of what’s happening.”

He said transparency is key.

“That has worked for us throughout this development. I really do believe that we’ve had strong community support. I think that says a lot about the process, but it says a lot about the development too.”

As a commercial space within a residential area, the company aims to remain a respectful neighbour. If issues arise, as they may with any neighbour, MacIntyre said he is quick to have them addressed.

“If there’s a complaint we sit down and have a coffee and work it out. That’s not any different than two people living beside each other. We think we deal with it really well, and we keep open conversation.”

Aside from greenspace, the development also includes a conference centre which will be used for social functions, such as weddings, dinners and ceremonies. He said approved events will be appropriate for the space.

The conference centre won’t be completed this year, MacIntyre said, the focus is finishing the garden space for now.

“We’re endeavoring to make this award-winning.”