The historic Parliament Oak property in Old Town Niagara-on-the-Lake has been sold to Two Sisters Resorts Corp. for $8 million.
In an interview Monday, company president Benny Marotta said he took possession of the property Oct. 26, “two days after the election.”
He said the plans for the property aren’t set yet, but he is eager to “work with the new administration, with the new lord mayor and council, and to see what is the best way to develop in a way that will satisfy the needs of the town.”
“The property itself, it’s the jewel of the downtown core,” Marotta said.
He added that “residents need to be part of the discussion. But at the end of the day, the town cannot go by what everybody wants, otherwise there will never be a decision. So, they need to trust council, especially the new council, in order to make a decision that we can all enjoy.”
Heritage attributes on the property, like the stone engravings at the entrance to the building, will be included in whatever development occurs, he said.
“I think there’s two stones. We are going to remove them, store them and make them part of whatever we’re going to build,” Marotta said.
As for what the town needs by way of development, Marotta said he thinks the town needs more accommodations and parking.
“Niagara-on-the-Lake is known more for tourism. So we need to make sure that when tourists come in town, they come and they stay here. So therefore, I think there’s a big need for high-end hotels. There’s a big need for parking facilities. There’s a big needs for restaurants,” he said.
“And there’s a big need for (developing) the downtown core in order for people to come in and not just walk up and down the street, have an ice cream and walk away,” he said.
As well, “We, as a family, felt that having someone from outside, from Montreal, to come in and do something that may not go with what the town really needs” wouldn’t be positive for NOTL, he said.
Parliament Oak, at 325 King St., was bought by Montreal-based Liberty Sites (3) Ltd. for $4.925 million in 2018, after the town failed to negotiate a deal to purchase the property.
The company had proposed a three-storey apartment building and 12 semi-detached homes on the site.
Residents loudly criticized the plan and eventually the property was listed again for sale.
Lord Mayor-elect Gary Zalepa said he looks forward to working with Marotta, as long as the development considers the needs of the surrounding community and NOTL at large.
“These are important properties, these larger parcels like this,” he said.
“During the campaign, I talked about hoping to have conversations with each of the villages about what type of amenities — and that includes housing and other types of services — do we really need in each village and what kind of structure could be appropriate for that.”
Through the strategic planning process he wants to implement, “we really would like to get to each of the villages and get some feedback from the community, which is understanding what things that we feel we need in each of the villages, what that could possibly look like.”
“I’m really hoping to have that kind of conversation so that I have a better sense of what we could help the community move forward with on these on these significant parcels,” Zalepa said.
Asked some things he’s heard that NOTL needs, he said there’s a need for institutions where residents can “age in place,” noting the property is still zoned institutional.
“So, I’d be curious to see what the proponent has in mind going forward,” he said.
People in Niagara-on-the-Lake feel there is a lack of resources as they grow older, he said, whether it’s “the kind of dwelling that allows them independence of their own, a more manageable home and property, or even a property that has some type of services that support them as they age in place.”
“So I think that’s an important amenity or feature that the town needs. I myself, my family, my parents, they would like to stay in town, right? And stay here longer term, but as you know, there’s not a lot of type of housing that supports that.”