Grimsby council approves controversial downtown condo project, reversing earlier decision

Proposed condo building in Grimsby's downtown Rendering of proposed condominium building in Grimsby's downtown
Updated: 12:03pm Wednesday Sept. 16

Grimsby town council has unanimously approved a controversial downtown condo development, reversing a decision from two weeks ago to block the project.

The four-storey, 87-unit building, proposed by Hamilton-based developer Homes By DeSantis Inc., was designed to fill the vacant lot at 6 Doran Avenue and 21-23 Main Street East on the old Roxy Theatre property. The site currently sits next to Judge and Jester pub. The lot has been vacant since the mid to late 1990s.

More than two years after the first application to build a residential condo building beside the Judge and Jester Pub at 25 Main Street East has been unanimously approved by the council.

On Wednesday morning, developer Gabriel DeSantis indicated he will be making a joint statement with the town later on Wednesday. However, in the interim, his office issued this brief statement: “Mr. DeSantis would like to express he is very pleased with the decision.”

The development was initially proposed as an eight-storey building. The design was later reduced to five storeys and then was finally approved at four. The building will contain up to 87 residential condominium units, a restaurant, and approximately 3,200 sq. ft. of retail space on the first floor.

Old Roxy Theatre in Grimsby circa 1973
Roxy Theatre in downtown Grimsby in 1973, now the site of an approved condo project by developer DeSantis. Photo credit: Grimsby Timescapes on Facebook

The number of parking spaces designed for the building has been a contentious issue and was extensively discussed by councillors at a council meeting two weeks ago, and in the lead up to the vote last night.

Several councillors, include Ward 4 Counc. Dorothy Bothwell and Ward 2 Counc. Lianne Vardy and Ward 1 Counc. Reg Freake, all who previously voted no to the proposal, said they were not against the development.

“I was hoping that tonight we would close the void between council and Mr. DeSantis,” said Counc. Freake. “We need to move forward.”

This is the first development that the current town council has had to consider for downtown Grimsby. “We want downtown to have a signature building. You can see how much we are trying to protect the downtown core. We want a landmark building, ” Freake also commented.

Tandem parking removed

One of the key roadblocks to approval was that DeSantis had proposed a tandem parking configuration for resident slots, where two cars are parked in a double space bumper to bumper. That was a bone of contention for some councillors.

“Tandem parking spots to me are useless…that’s a non-starter for me…I don’t want loopholes…I want both parties to agree to it so both have an understanding and commitment to moving that forward,” said Vardy.

However Ward 3 Counc. John Dunstall said: At the “last meeting about the tandem parking some of us didn’t like it. If it’s acceptable and meets the requirement I don’t think we should involve our personal opinions of it.”

The tandem parking slot design has now been removed from the proposal.

“Now we’ve got transportation on demand we want people living and working and playing in our town and not having to commute. Let’s build a community where we can support each other. Our town is struggling. We have empty stores…and we have a gentleman that wants to invest millions of dollars in our downtown. We cannot stall this any longer,” said Dunstall.

A delegation from Homes by DeSantis attended the meeting. Calvin Lance, Solicitor for Homes by DeSantis, told council: “One of the themes we heard is that there is an importance of having a landmark building in the downtown. We are confident we can deliver that as a product…It’s going to bring $7.6 million dollars of community benefits to this town over the next ten years.”

Grimsby Mayor Jeff Jordan closed the meeting by saying: “I want to commend the DeSantis team for working with us. And I want to commend the council for moving this forward.”

The new building will include 160 parking spaces: 131 for tenants, 27 dedicated for commercial use, 10 parking spaces for retail, and 17 spaces for the restaurant.

The residential part of the building will consist of a mixture of two-bedroom, one-bedroom, and one-bedroom-plus-den configurations. There is a cap of 87 residential units, however, the final unit count may be less, depending on final parking space configurations.

A site plan still needs to be approved, and tweaks to the design are expected to be made. “I would like to see the full front of the building in red brick or stone up to the second or third story to suit the heritage look of downtown,” Ward 4 Councillor Dave Sharpe told Niagara Info. He initially voted against the project two weeks ago, but voted in favour of the project along with all of his colleagues during last night’s council vote.

Reacting to the decision to approve the project, Mark Wood, owner of The Forty Pub in downtown Grimsby, said Wednesday morning: “I am excited to see the approval of this project. The town and developer have come to a compromise that is both attractive and functional. The financial benefits to the downtown core and the town itself will be longterm and much needed,” he said.

With files from Andy Walker.

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Previous story (Aug 24): Grimsby town council shuts the door on Desantis condo project, a 5/4 split