Old Royal Bank building at Maple and Canboro may become a boutique hotel and retail space
Downtown Fenwick may become a feature destination if a local builder’s plans come to fruition. Mark Young, of Plumm Construction, hopes to erect a three story hotel with storefront businesses on the same footprint as the old RBC bank building. The bank closed the branch in spring 2018.
Young says he wants to contribute to the vibrancy and future of the village. He bought the building in May with the intention of transforming the corner of Maple and Canboro into an attractive commercial centre. His plans call for first-floor retail outlets, and he says he has firm interest from Vineland Estates Winery to put a café and bakery in at the location, featuring sidewalk tables under an awning. He says that Pen Financial has expressed interest in adding an ATM and possibly a part time banking outlet on the first floor. Some Fenwick residents still resent the closure of the Royal Bank at the location.
Plans for the building feature a stone façade and a central tower (reclaimed from a farm silo) that will house an elevator. Each of the two upper floors will have four “luxury” hotel rooms. When asked what would draw people to a hotel in Fenwick, Young cited the boutique Fonthill Inn, and suggested that promoting the facility as a central-but-out-of-the-way stay-over for wine tours, golf holidays, and even Niagara Falls visits would draw guests.
The project is dependent on the results of a hearing of the Town’s Committee of Adjustment on February 4. Young has applied for several minor variances that will need the approval of the committee. In effect, he will be applying for approval of the present building’s location, since the bank building is now in contravention of the Town’s 30-year-old zoning bylaws, having been built previous to their adoption. He plans on putting his hotel on the footprint of the current red brick structure.
The present zoning allows for both a hotel and the three-story structure, but there is concern about parking for eight hotel units and an enterprise such as a café. Mark Bay, who made downtown Fenwick parking an issue in his unsuccessful bid for a Ward 1 council seat in the last election, has gone on record as objecting to the project based on the parking problem. Anticipating this issue, Young commissioned a parking study that concluded the municipal lot behind the building and street parking would be adequate to meet the needs of hotel guests and clients, except for a period during busy Saturday mornings.
He is hopeful that the committee and Fenwick residents will weigh the benefits of his plan against the occasional inconvenience of unavailable parking.
Young grew up in Fenwick, attending St. Ann’s school and E. L. Crossley. He started his own construction business at the age of 18, working mainly on farm buildings. Plumm Construction now employs ten workers and is about to expand into the old Avondale store in North Pelham, where Young plans on opening a specialty hardware store for farm construction projects at the front, with his shop, offices, and storage at the rear.
“I can understand that people don’t like change,” he said, “but I hope they can see the benefits of creating a vibrant downtown.” He feels that the project as he plans it will complement the other businesses in town rather than draw customers away from them, and hopes that a beautiful building in the centre of town will inspire others to be more creative in their approach to downtown structures. He noted that both the old firehall and the old post office have been purchased and are slated for reconstruction.
Ward 1 Councillor Mike Ciolfi is keeping an open mind.
“I would like to see something done with the vacant bank,” said Ciolfi when asked for comment. “As for the plans, I have yet to receive any information from the Town planning staff. I do know that the developer has applications in for several minor variances. I have also received calls from a concerned resident about the lack of parking. I’m looking forward to the planning report.”
Ward 1’s other representative, Councillor Marianne Stewart, said that as much as some “would like to turn back time,” change is inevitable.
“The proposed renovation and enlarging of the building would be a great looking addition to ‘downtown’ Fenwick,” said Stewart.
“In the coming years we are expecting large growth in the Fenwick area and features like this only make the town more attractive. That being said, the downside is the current shortage of parking spaces. When the downtown is busy and the on- street commercial parking and the parking lot are full, patrons are parking in residential areas, causing aggravation for the residents.”
Stewart said that it was up to the Town to ensure that any new development would provide enough additional parking for both employees and patrons of the proposed commercial spaces.
“Development is great—both the commercial spaces and accommodations for travellers—but without adequate parking, people may stay away because of the aggravation of not finding nearby parking. A balance needs to be found for development and access to that development without a negative impact on the residents.”