Six things you need to know about Solmar Development Corporation and Benny Marotta, and their plans for the Randwood Estate and Niagara-on-the-Lake.
1. Solmar/Marotta is a high-density, urban developer.
Based in Vaughan, Solmar Development Corp. and Benny Marotta have developed numerous high-density, urban projects.
Taller, wider and tighter is not the model for Niagara-on-the-Lake.
2. Solmar is one of the largest residential and commercial landholders in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
So far, we have Solmar Development Corporation to thank for:
- Cannery Park, the densest single-family housing development in Niagara-on-the-Lake
- The boarding up of Fan’s Court Chinese restaurant, a former heritage building on the main street, for more than three years
- The Windsor, a townhouse development in an area previously designated as single-family residential
3. The Marotta/Solmar hotel proposal for Randwood dwarfs the previously approved Romance Inn proposal (2011).
Almost twice the height, none of the charming roof modulation tying into the existing Rand house nor any attempt to “fit in” to the community.
“Its singular, unbroken and rectangular mass introduces a monolith to the landscape on this property and is more reflective of the designs represented by [a] Holiday Inn Express…” –Clare Cameron, member of Niagara-on-the-Lake Municipal Heritage Committee
The hotel proposal was also described by the acting Chair of the Town’s Urban Design Committee at a recent meeting as a cross between an airport hotel and a Soviet apartment block.
4. It’s more than just a hotel — it’s a convention centre and wedding factory.
Solmar’s own Heritage Impact Assessment (Introduction, page 3) refers to the project as a “hotel and restaurant complex.” This sets the stage for fundamental changes from the 2011 approved uses, including:
- Almost 50 per cent more hotel rooms: from 106 to 145
- More food and beverage: from one restaurant (200 seats) and one patio to multiple restaurants (300 seats) and multiple patios
- With the spa increasing fourfold from 1,997 sq. ft. to 18,200 sq. ft. the entire nature and characterisation of the “spa” has changed from the Romance proposal.
- More parking: from 250 to 415 stalls
Almost 10,000 square feet of convention space (not counting outdoor areas or spaces in other buildings on site). For comparison, the largest ballroom at Queen’s Landing is 4,760 square feet.
5. But the real play is the subdivision.
Marotta’s ultimate goal is to create a new subdivision with more than 150 narrow, “big city-type” lots crammed in between the rear of the Randwood Estate and the Upper Canada Trail (bordering homes along The Promenade). Quietly, Marotta/Solmar has not only assembled the 13.3 acres that are the subject of the current Randwood discussion, but also the 22.85 acres at 200 John Street, 6.22 acres at 588 Charlotte Street and 13.21 acres at 144-176 John Street for a total of 42.28 acres (see diagram below). These combined lands represent the core of the original Randwood Estate.
6. Sensitive Environmental Features- Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.
According to an August 2011 letter to the Town from the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, several environmentally sensitive attributes of the Randwood site include:
- EPA significant habitat of threatened or endangered species
- ECA significant woodland (species of specific concern)
- ECA significant habitat of species of concern
- Fish habitat Type 3
Since acquiring the property, the Conservation Authority has stood idly by while Solmar has led an assault on this sensitive land, including clear cutting trees and rechannelling water courses.