Updated Hotel and Residential Development Plan for Former Loretto Academy Property Approved by Niagara Falls Council
Niagara Falls City Council has approved an official plan and zoning by-law amendment to allow for even larger hotel and residential development than was originally approved for the former Loretto Academy property on Stanley Avenue.
The council had previously approved 32-, 42-, and 57-story towers at 6880 Stanley Avenue.
Last week politicians backed an updated plan, which will see a 39-storey (404 apartments), a 45-storey (250 hotel rooms and 254 accommodation) and a 60-storey (258 hotel rooms and 362 accommodation ) tower developed on the property.
The proposal includes over 1,000 residential apartments in one to four bedroom units, over 500 hotel rooms in the North and Central Towers, and over 17,000 square meters of retail, commercial, of restaurant and assembly in the former Loretto Academy and in a three- to five-story catwalk, said city planner Julie Hannah.
“The request is that all apartments potentially be used as vacation rental units,” she said.
“The applicant has not specified a specific number. They want to make this opportunity, in my understanding, available to potential buyers.
Jeremy Tran, planning consultant for the developer, 3Bridges Properties (Group) Inc., said he believed the proposed development was “an update and improvement to the current design which was approved in 2012”.
“The proposed development would not only strengthen the tourism sector in the city by creating more jobs and more high quality hotel rooms, but it would also create housing in the Fallsview sub-district,” he said. he told advisers.
“The applicant is committed to preserving and integrating Loretto Academy into the proposed development to restore this building to its former glory and allow the public to once again be able to access this magnificent building.”
Tran said the applicant’s consulting team worked with city staff and neighbors “to respond to all the feedback and refine the application to where we are today, and we will continue to do so in the next phase of the planning process”.
Com. Chris Dabrowski described the proposed development as “impressive”, adding that it could be a “game changer” for the Fallsview district.
“I don’t think we have anything like it in the Fallsview area,” he said. “It’s a triple threat – there’s commerce, there’s condo development, there’s residential housing for rent, so I totally agree.”
Staff recommended that council support the applicant’s request to amend the official plan and zoning by-law, subject to various conditions being met. Staff said this is a modification of a previously approved high-rise development that is consistent with provincial, regional and municipal policies, as it intensifies land in the built-up area, provides tourism jobs compatible with residential uses, increases opportunities for cross-border tourism in the Gateway Economic Center area, and enhances the vitality and viability of the Fallsview sub-district of the Central Tourism District.
A report that was presented to council on Tuesday said the proposed development would maintain tourist commercial and residential uses in an area designated to allow high-rise development.
The increased permitted height will not create additional shadow impact from existing permissions and its design meets applicable architectural guidelines, the report states.
Staff said that through design revisions and in consultation with the city, more of the lawn to the east of the existing building is retained, the podium has been moved back from the east facade of the old Academy Loretto to better showcase its architectural significance, the south plot building was moved away from Our Lady of Peace Church to be sensitive to institutional use, and a five meter setback from the south lot line of the south plot is provided for all structures above and below ground level of the adjoining cemetery.
“The location of the podium and towers on the site reflects the existing location of the former Loretto Academy and its continued presence on the property, while taking into account the adjoining built cultural heritage and landscape features (Church of Our Lady of Peace, Mount Carmel Center and Queen Victoria Park),” the report said.
Minimal parking is proposed at ground level to preserve the lawn to the east of the existing building and to provide appropriate landscaping between the south plot building and the church. The rest of the required parking will be provided underground.
3Bridges has purchased ownership of Romzap Ltd. in 2019. Romzap purchased the property from the Loretto Sisters, a Catholic order of nuns, in 2006 and had similar development plans.
The order of the Loretto sisters dates back to 1861 when they transformed a dilapidated country inn known as Canada House into a convent and school. Within a decade, Archbishop John Lynch gave the sisters the prized land above the falls for a new building.
The sisters ran a convent, boarding school and spiritual retreat there for 144 years.
Loretto Academy closed its boarding school in 1969 but continued as a day school called Loretto High School until 1982. From 1982 to 2005, the Loretto Christian Life Center operated out of the building providing spiritual retreats to many 8th graders year and various other groups.
It was announced in 2005 that the Stanley Avenue monument was closing for good, as expensive upgrades would have been required to bring the center up to modern standards. It closed later that year.