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Niagara Falls
Tuesday, May 21, 2024
New gateway will let visitors know they’ve reached heritage district
A $250,000 donation from Gerry Kowalchuk's family has grown with interest and will fund the much-debated new gateway to Niagara-on-the-Lake's heritage district. Supplied

The town’s new gateway project is getting closer to completion after more than three years of discussions.

The project will replace the current garden and landscaping at the intersection of Mississagua and Queen streets with a drystone wall that lets people know they’ve reached NOTL’s heritage district.

The project, fully funded through a donation from the Kowalchuk Family Foundation, is budgeted at $264,890.

Construction is expected to start this spring.

The contractor, chosen through a bidding process, is Three Seasons Landscape Group Inc., with the design by Seferian Design Group.

Gerry Kowalchuk, who is responsible for the sizable donation, said he’s glad to see the project finally coming to a head after years of discussion and public input.

“I’m pretty happy it’s finalized,” Kowalchuk said in an interview.

He said he’s hopeful the project will be completed this year, but “I am little surprised how long it took, though. Truthfully.”

He attributes that largely to the town listening to public input.

“The town’s got a very open attitude toward the public’s participation in projects throughout here, there and everywhere. I mean, it seems to just be a major part of their philosophy,” he said.

“I can’t deny that that’s a good idea, but I didn’t consider this to be a massive project. It’s not like we’re building an apartment building,” Kowalchuk said.

“I’m not disappointed, but I would have never envisioned that going back three-and-a-half years or so.”

He said he was also a bit surprised by the local reaction to the initial design that included an obelisk, but thinks it ended up the right way with the drystone wall.

He said he understands why NOTLers are particular about any changes to the town’s features.

“I’m a citizen here now, about 13 years. I’m not originally from here and I’m quite proud to be living here. That’s the reason I’m doing this — my wife and I think a lot of this community,” Kowalchuk said.

“I can imagine you can only multiply that feeling by several times if you were born and raised here. People probably don’t really like some change in certain cases. I just didn’t think anything we we’re proposing was over the top, if I can put it that way.”

Other than beautifying the streetscape, another indirect benefit to the town is the installation will have its own irrigation system, he said.

“We’re actually running a water line and there’s going to be a formal irrigation system, which will sustain itself. It’ll take that responsibility away from town staff actually. So there is some form of indirect benefit from the town’s manpower standpoint.”

The gateway wall also will be lit up at night, so the lettering “Heritage District” will still be visible as a silhouette.

“I also like the fact that it’s going to be lit up. It’s going to come on, basically at dusk,” he said.

“They’re large letters and there’s going to be indirect lighting where you’ll see the silhouette of the lettering in the evening. I think it’s going to be quite attractive, actually.”

He said he thinks people are going to like the final result.

“I’m hopeful that when the public sees it completed, that there will be concurrence. You can’t please everybody, but I’m hopeful and somewhat confident that when it’s finished, because it’s not in your face, it’s not something that’s pushy. It’s not overly aggressive. It suits the town. It suits the neighbourhood, it suits what we’re trying to accomplish. I’m hopeful that everybody, as I am, will be very proud of it.”

He said the town will relocate the signage that is now on the site.

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