A Historic Beginning

CREATING A GATEWAY ENTRANCE WORTHY OF NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE

In 1995 the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake was immersed in an OMB fight over the type of development that would forever become the entrance to the Old Town. Local residents and Council alike did not want to see a strip mall and suburban sprawl become the gateway greeting to the town, but there was little agreement on an alternative. As debates were heating up, the OMB chairman at the time, Ted Yao, made a very bold and unusual move. Recognizing the historic significance of Niagara-on-the-Lake, he declared a one year moratorium over the proceedings and sent everyone back to the drawing board. He recommended a stakeholder working committee be formed to come up with a better plan.

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In response, Bud Wright, then owner of the land, invited John Hawley and his wife Liz, who had proven track records with outside the box developments, to partner with him and form the working committee. The search for an acceptable alternative caused the committee to explore the New Urbanism. As a result, Hawley attended a week long intensive teaching session at Seaside, Florida, the birthplace of New Urbanism in North America.

Like the Founder of Seaside, Robert Davis, who wanted his property to serve a humane purpose as opposed to becoming just another waterfront condo development, Wright and Hawley were determined that this property become a credit to the heritage community of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

 

Hawley was so impressed with what he saw and learned that he asked renowned New Urban architect and town planner Andrés Duany to master plan this new community.

Soon after, the Lord Mayor Mike Dietsch and Hawley visited Kentlands, a Washington, DC New Urban community designed by Duany. Dietsch, also impressed by Duany and New Urbanism, became convinced it was the right fit for Niagara-on-the-Lake. Jumping on board this bold initiative he and Council agreed to co-host a week long public planning exercise headed up by Duany. In preparation for this week long Charrette, Duany’s hand picked team studied the Olde Town, measuring streetwidths, heights of buildings and density in order to create an inventory of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s architecture.

This genuine community in the making is continually inspired by a love of old Niagara-on-the-Lake, as well as by an appreciation for what other great New Urban communities have achieved.

This knowledge was then used to create an incredible Master Plan and Architectural Code for The Village. The Master Plan, rich and diverse with beautiful buildings, streets, and public spaces, has at its heart a Village Centre with a café, shops, businesses, and restaurants, all within a five-minute walk for Village residents.

Council and the entire Niagara-on-the-Lake community unanimously approved the Master Plan. The Niagara Advance referred to The Village as “The Miracle Project” because of the consensus that had been achieved. The response from the OMB was equally as positive and Chairman Yao expressed that the Master Plan had exceeded his wildest expectations. He immediately ratified the necessary zoning to allow it to proceed. Construction began in 1998, and in 1999 the first buildings for The Village Centre were erected.

In 2007 Brookfield Residential joined forces with John and Liz and their firm Traditional Neighbourhood Developments (TND), sharing the vision of creating one of those sought after and cherished places where those who live are the envy of their friends. The completion of Phase Four is currently under way.

“The vision Liz and I have is to create a fabulous place not only for the people who live here, but for all of Niagara-on-the-Lake as well.” – John Hawley