Is Massive Niagara Falls Housing/Tourism Development Going Ahead?

Photo by Danny Hoang on Unsplash

There are mixed messages coming from Chinese developer GR (Can) Investment Co. Ltd regarding their planned mega residential/tourism project in Niagara Falls.

On the one hand, GR has the land for its $1.5 billion project near Marineland up for sale on Colliers International, but the company also says they are still very much committed to the project.

So, which is it?

 The RiverFront Community at Niagara Falls was to be a community of over 3,400 residential units (and tourist accommodations) geared towards family (and senior) living.

Potential homeowners would have access to a train service linking the Falls area, Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort and the Thundering Waters gold course area, as well as the development’s tennis and basketball courts, a children’s amusement park, an Asian-Euro art gallery, street spa, outdoor market, and independent waterway flowing through it.

READ: Niagara Falls Could Get A 72-Storey Mixed-Use Tower

But the development has courted controversy since 2015 when it was first announced.

In particular, environmentalists issued concerns to city council about the health of its wetlands and wildlife habitat – the buffer zones which cannot be built on during construction. Yet despite the protests from local environmental groups, city council approved the proposal with specific constraints in 2018.

Since then,  the project has simply stalled.

“We won’t give up (on) this big project,” said Helen Chang, chief executive officer for GR (Can) Investment Co. Ltd., speaking through a translator to the Niagara Falls Review.

READ: GO Expansion Is Already Having A Big Impact On Niagara Housing Prices

“We (have been) doing developments for many years. These kinds of problems happen all the time, but we do need people’s support, we need government support. We are not easy to give up.”

Chang says GR’s 193.6 hectares of land requires more investors in order to get the project off the ground and that the sale is merely a vehicle for motivating commercial companies to express interest.

GR says it has already invested $40 million into project development, including $22.5 million to purchase the land, sponsor further planning, and to deal with environmental opposition to the site. However, the company says that more is needed to initialize the building process which could last up to eight years.

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Change remains optimistic however, despite the land being up for sale. “We are very confident for the success of this project. We are going to stay in the project.”

On the plus side, she said the development will create about 3,000 direct and 10,000 indirect jobs.

“During the construction, we also are creating 1,000 jobs,” she said.

“After this project is built, it will be another attraction in the Niagara Falls area,” who added that the mega-complex will be much more than just a “city within a city”, but an integral part of the greater Niagara Falls area.

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Supporters have argued it would be a tremendous economic boon to the city.

In November, a proposed 72-storey, mixed-use hotel tower with 275 condo units was approved by city council meeting. It will become the tallest in the city of Niagara Falls and is located close by the Horseshoe Falls and the Fallsview Casino.

The recently announced extension and expansion of  GO Transit to boost service into the Niagara Region‘s hot housing market is already having an impact as first-time homebuyers and retirees from the GTA and southern Ontario seek more affordable housing.

Recent stats from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) found that Niagara has experienced the biggest percentage price jump of any local market in Canada.

READ: GO Transit From Toronto To Niagara Falls Makes Weekend Getaways Easy

A recent study from CMHC, Canada’s national housing agency, says GO stations in the Hamilton-Niagara region are already driving up the prices of homes.

Last month, Metrolinx released an update on its Niagara Falls rail service extension which has the target of starting a two-way all-day service to Niagara Falls on the Lakeshore West corridor.

Meanwhile, Chang also relayed her many years of experience in China where she protected the environment during development, including wetland-protection projects.

“We have lots of environmental-problem solutions.” Though city planners have said the development as proposed would not infringe on wetlands, critics, though, said it could disrupt an entire ecosystem.

Now Chang and GR are waiting for investors with deep pockets to rescue the development.

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