It’s been a rainy start to what would usually already be patio season this year, but I’m still itching to start spending as much time outside as possible as soon as the sun comes out and the temperature goes UP.
With the revitalization of Downtown St. Catharines, I’m seeing a lot more people making their way past the UPhouse to wander the streets, visit the local businesses, and chill out in Montebello Park. But there is so much more to Downtown St. Catharines than that — in fact, there are tons of underappreciated hidden gems in our city’s core, you just have to know where to look.
Nothing beats grabbing a bite to eat for lunch and watching the world go by from the comfort of a cool courtyard, and Downtown St. Catharines has plenty. First, the Old Courthouse, built in 1848, at the corner of King Street and James Street. It’s a beauty of a building and with the market right next door, it’s a great place to relax in the sunshine with something delicious from our local farmers.
From somewhere old to somewhere new, the next stop on the courtyard tour is the newly built space between Brock University’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts and the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. Remember when that area was a dusty, lower level parking lot? Not anymore, it’s been landscaped into a beautiful oasis. You can’t even tell you are just below our downtown core!
A place for reflection
The largest memorial monument in the city is right downtown — the St. Catharines Cenotaph in Memorial Park. Located next to the White House of Rock, on what is now referred to as Veterans Way (on St. Paul Street West), the monument was a tribute to the St. Catharines men and women who gave their lives during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, as well as the United Nations Peacekeepers and the Canadian Merchant Navy.
This often overlooked park is a calm and quiet green space that is perfect for relaxing and reflecting on the day while soaking up some sunshine and taking in views of the Twelve Mile Creek valley.
And then there’s Helliwell’s Lane
Right now, Helliwell’s Lane is a little-known shortcut between St. Paul Street, King Street and Church Street. While it starts out as a pedestrian walkway right at St. Paul, it becomes a small laneway for cars. If you ask me, this is a huge opportunity here. For the number of vehicles that actually use Helliwell’s Lane, let’s restrict access and make it pedestrian only. Allow for C1 Zoning (the most flex zoning there is for residential and commercial) and watch what happens. This could be a hip awesome stretch of alley, for retail, patio’s, local artisans and most importantly of all, see what happens when some of the buildings want to convert to residential, which is what the Downtown needs the most. OK… So I am a dreamer. But it would be cool!
What are your favourite under appreciated, hidden gems in St. Catharines?