St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan provided his state-of-the-city address during a Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Friday. He said the city is “writing a new chapter” with projects such as the spectator facility and performing arts centre coming online, and with some of the private sector investments that have been attracted thanks to the public sector investments.

St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan provided his state-of-the-city address during a Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Friday. He said the city is “writing a new chapter” with projects such as the spectator facility and performing arts centre coming online, and with some of the private sector investments that have been attracted thanks to the public sector investments.

The Shickluna project has come up several times over the years during Mayor Brian McMullan’s state-of-the-city address.

The much anticipated project has been on the books for some time now, but this year McMullan said he’s feeling good about the city’s chances of finally forging ahead with it in 2013. His confidence led him to a last-minute change to his speech during the 2013 state-of-the-city event, held Friday at Holiday Inn Suites Parkway Conference Centre as part of a Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

“Just this week we learned from Minister of Energy Chris Bentley that as a result of the government’s commitment to meeting its hydroelectric target, the Ontario Power Authority has been directed to approve eligible municipal projects,” McMullan said. “It specifies these new hydro builds should be less than five megawatts and our Shickluna project, and only one other project we know of, falls within that range.”

The $40-million Shickluna Hydro Generating Station has huge potential for the city should the province award the facility a feed-in tariff contract, McMullan told reporters after the event.

“It means millions of dollars of revenue for the city,” he said, noting the green energy project will assist them in providing another funding source for municipal operations, services and programs — at no cost to the taxpayer. The project will be built with funds set aside by St. Catharines Hydro, and through borrowing, with revenue generated each year going towards the repayment.

The city passed a resolution Nov. 26 to reinforce its support of the project, and McMullan said he has already met with Bentley, who is well versed on the project thanks to support from St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley. The project, he said, has been in line for funding since 2009.

Shickluna would be just one of several accomplishments in store for 2013. The $5.95-million Merritton Fire Hall will open this spring, while work will continue to progress with the downtown performing arts centre and spectator facility. At city hall, a new customer-serve oriented initiative will ensure “citizens are truly first”, he said, and the city is also looking at a new comprehensive zoning by-law for the city to try and make the process for citizens and developers more user friendly.

Looking back, McMullan said St. Catharines has faced challenges, but has endured. Private investment, he said, has been intensive despite the economic storm, and working hand in hand with the public investments, such as the downtown Carlisle Street garage or the Kiwanis Aquatics Centre and Grantham Library branch, it’s making the city “grow and prosper.”

“The unprecedented investments in our community are already altering our landscape,” McMullan said. “Never before in our history have there been so many structures rising from the ground.”

There is still much room to grow, he said. There is investment downtown, such as new business tenants and the first new condo development being built downtown in 25 years by Penn Terra, and there is investment coming in the west end alongside the new Niagara Health System’s health-care complex.

“(The hospital is) creating nearly $50-million in private investments as developers are keen to capture some of the potential in this emerging market,” he said, specifically noting a new commercial development, as well as a medical arts building and a new home for Pathstone Mental Health.

When it comes down to it, McMullan told reporters after the event, this “means jobs.”

“Jobs in building these ... but also jobs in the future,” he said.

McMullan committed to continuing to lobby the province for expanding GO Rail service in St. Catharines, saying he believes it’s not a matter of “if, but when.”

“Affordable, reliable transportation is vital to encourage future growth,” he said.

McMullan said for the people of St. Catharines, “the best is yet to come.” With the opening of the spectator facility and arts centre coming on line, and projects like the Burgoyne Bridge and investments by the private sector, he said the “transformation is just beginning.”

“We’re writing a new chapter in st. Catharines’ history,” he said.