Construction is set to begin along Court Street in the first phase of an $11-million north core streetscape renewal project with Thunder Bay city council approving the awarding of the contract on Monday. 

The second phase of the project will encompass Red River Road, starting from Cumberland Street to Court Street in 2024.

Mckellar Coun. Brian Hamilton called the rebuilding of the downtown core a “super exciting project” that was a priority of the last term of council and included in their strategic plan.

“It’s going to link up all the work that’s been done down Court Street with premium finishing,” Hamilton said. “But the real jewel is going to be the Red River corridor that will be done building to building with high quality paving stone that presumably is going to stay in great shape for the next 40 or 50 years.”

During the council meeting, there was plenty of  commentary about the disruption to businesses. 

Hamilton says businesses have been “hammered through COVID” and are now facing a two-year disruptive construction cycle. But representatives of the Waterfront Business Improvement Area voiced their pleasure for the project, which will be undertaken by Nadin Contracting Ltd. The representatives assured that there was unanimous support from their business membership to move forward.

“They’re absolutely ecstatic,” said Kara Pratt, executive director for the Waterfront BIA. 

“We’re dealing with underground infrastructure that’s over 100 years old. We will sit down with Nadin Contracting and we go through what they have (planned) . . . and we have the utmost faith and competence that they will maintain accessibility. We’re prepared to work diligently with them to maintain accessibility within the Waterfront District BIA to all of the businesses.”

Erin DeLorenzi, co-owner of Sweet North Bakery with her husband Kris, says she doesn’t know any specifics about how they will maintain access but is confident that Nadin has a plan. 

“We don’t have a back door so it is a bit of a concern for us,” Erin DeLorenzi said. “I don’t know any specifics, but I know they said that they will maintain access to our businesses. There’s no doubt that we will suffer because of it, which is really challenging. We thought it was going to happen next summer. I’m in no way complaining because we’re very excited. It’s a beautiful project. I think it’s what we need downtown. We just had three years of a pandemic so we kind of needed this summer to be a good summer, but we’re resilient and we’re coming up with all kinds of plans.”

Louise Thomas, owner of Ahnisnabae Art Gallery, is also concerned about accessibility to her gallery and is putting thought into alternative access. 

“I get a lot of tourists in the galleries and I need to know what (Nadin) is going to do so I can work around it,” Thomas said. “I would like to know what’s going on. I do have a backdoor but our framing is done in the back (of the building).”

Thomas said “it’s beginning to be really hard for people to find parking” and says it’s going to be worse this summer. 

Brian Newman, the city’s project engineer, says the city has been working closely with the Waterfront BIA and has held “countless” meetings and public open houses in what he called a three-year plan.

“The BIA are very satisfied with our answers . . . but at the same time there’s some concerns with accessibility. The contractor has it in their contract to maintain access at all times as best they can,” he said. “There’s going to be fence detail for walkability and for safety and there’ll be signage and people on site to help direct people where they have to go.”

Newman said the estimated project completion will be in October of 2024.

By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 05, 2023 at 10:20

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chronicle-Journal   Thunder Bay, Ontario
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