THUNDER Bay – (Special to NetNewsledger.com)
A lot has happened in the first year of construction of Prince Arthur’s Landing. By next spring, the people of Thunder Bay will be able to enjoy the water’s edge at Marina Park like never before. It’s timely, then, to provide an update and set the record straight.
Opponents to the waterfront project say that the master plan has changed and that the public elements are reduced. This is not true.
The master plan is being constructed as it was approved. Once complete, it will have activities for all ages. The skating rink/splash pad is under construction and the skate plaza has been in use since 2008. Pier 2 has been converted into public park space that provides both access to the docks as well as landscaped public open space with picnic docks and viewing areas. The water garden pavilion is under construction and will have a café/concession, public washrooms and a changing room for skaters and bathers. Mariner’s Hall, is the building’s key feature. It will house a permanent display of marine history done in partnership with the naval veterans. This space will provide the City with opportunities to host events and to support park programming. The former Baggage Building is being expanded into an art centre with studio space for artists, art-related programming and art sales. New and expanded servicing has been constructed to meet the needs of these significant public buildings and their amenities. The marina has also received $4.2 million in servicing upgrades and new docks.
A significant water feature is being constructed between the CN Station and Baggage Building. It will have an art commission themed on the Red River Road being the gateway to the west and the east. This and numerous other public art commissions are planned to highlight the unique culture of Thunder Bay. The first two of these have been awarded. Marc Niesenholt’s dynamic art will be featured on the twelve foot high lanterns gracing the picnic docks on Pier 2, and an artist-led team from Brazil is working with the architects on designing the beacons for Piers 1 and 3. The Spirit Garden is now under construction. Designed by a young aboriginal architect with input from local aboriginal people, the landscape design reflects the rich aboriginal heritage of Thunder Bay. The City plans to partner with the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre’s Greenhouse and Garden program to supply medicinal plants like sage and sweet grass for use in the community.
Rumours abound about the private development. The condominium designs were recently presented to Council and the developers are finalizing an agreement with an hotelier. When complete, the designs for the hotel and the balance of the commercial uses in the CN Station and the new Market Building will be made available to the public. The $60 to $70 million development benefit the community by creating local construction jobs and permanent jobs associated with the commercial elements. Construction is expected to start in 2011.
Project critics claim that the project is over budget. At the same time they complain when reasonable changes are made to reduce costs. The project is being constructed in 15 contracts. Ten have been awarded and five have yet to be tendered. Some projects were under budget and some were over. Scope reductions were made to reduce costs on some while maintaining the vision, functionality and intent of the master plan. This is a rational and effective means to manage budgets on projects like this one. To date, the project is still within the $47.5 million capital budget approved by Council.
The master plan approved in 2007 is being constructed as it was designed, a significant accomplishment given the complexity of the project and the interests involved. It will be an exciting, year-round gathering place for the community. It has created jobs, leveraged outside investment ($100 million) and it is shaping up to be a world-class development that is uniquely Thunder Bay.
Greg Alexander is the General Manager of Community Services for the City of Thunder Bay. Waterfront Development is a division of Community Services.