Just a Thought…

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Waterfront Art work
Artist's rendition of how the artwork tower will look.
THUNDER BAY – Editorial – Well it has been a while since I actually sat down to type a thought or two and I have to thank James Murray for providing me the forum.

Approximately three years ago, I wrote an article about the Marina Park and asked about the need to tear up what I viewed as a wonderful destination spot. I recognized at the time that many people wanted more from the park and like many I had my own ideas as to how it could be enhanced but I was okay with it the way it was. After construction began I wrote a second article hoping I was wrong in my concerns and that all of the promises that were made would come to fruition for Thunder Bay. Many believe that has not been the case.

I do not see the need to discuss the cost overruns and the other issues surrounding this project. Others with greater expertise in those fields can determine if some of these issues were inevitable or avoidable, but I would like to relate to you the events that took place at a meeting I attended before construction began on the Waterfront.

A ward meeting was held in our city by one of our elected officials. I like this individual and it is not my intent to embarrass anyone so I will not be using names, but it is to shed some light on an issue that to this day I still consider somewhat problematic. The meeting was well attended and several members of council were in the room. Many people were angry and quite disrespectful to our elected officials and city employees. I suggested to some in crowd that it is one thing to express concern and frustration but quite another to do so in a rude and insulting manner. People should always be willing to discuss but why do some hurl insults when they try to make a point?

During the meeting it became apparent that a hotel/condo complex were a major component of this project. It was clear that the main reason to have a hotel and condo within the park was to support the commercial businesses that were going to be located there. That answer by our city officials led me to ask a question. It was as follows: if the hotel and condominium were at full capacity, an unlikely occurrence, how could approximately four hundred people possibly support the proposed commercial component of this project (assumed two people for approximately two hundreds spots).

The answer I received was basically this: those people living there or staying in the hotel would attract others to the area and they would provide the critical mass to support those businesses who would set up shop at the park. While I did not agree with that assessment, I have far less business experience than others and I at least allowed for the possibility that they might be right. What was very clear to everyone was that we needed the hotel/condo complex to support the commercial enterprise. I can understand the argument that was presented although I considered it to be a rather weak one but allow me to digress for a moment.

I have yet to discover a reason as to why the new multi-plex could be built on the Water Street bus terminal site but that location would not have been suitable for a hotel/condo project. If there has been a valid argument presented for this question I have missed it, but back to the discussion.

As most know the commercial component of this project has been cancelled. There will be no shops located at the Marina to draw people to the area. So why then are we continuing with the hotel/condo component of the project. Is it because we are contracted to? Is it because we invested so much money into developing the land that it would look foolish if we did not or is there some valid economic reason to continue forward with this plan?

Someone must have the answer because the placement of these buildings within the park is supposed to be continuing.

If the buildings were located across the street, taxes would be paid, people would be hired, economic activity would still be generated so why is it so much better that these buildings be located on the east side of the tracks? A few hundred yards south of the bus terminal and thirty yards east. This article is not to criticize but it is to discuss.

With apologies, I simply do not understand how placing them in the park is so much better. The view would be no different and easy park access could have been created.

If I do have criticism it is over the recent decision to award a very large contract for artwork that to me is puzzling.

My personal opinion of art is not important, nor is the opinion of Steve or Laverne or anyone else. But it seems ten people just decided on the artwork to be located there and many might consider the price hefty. It seems strange that our city council is deciding on art. Is that really their area of expertise. Could this have been better idea?

A competition within our city for all local and area artists to participate in. We could have opened it up to anyone from around the country if we wished. The criteria could have been judged based on design, cost, and possibly how accurately the display says something about our city or our region. A tribute to the Voyageur perhaps? Something that symbolizes our native people or something that recognizes the importance of the European migration that built our twin cities, anything that may pay homage to those who came before us. Imagine how wonderful it would be to have a local artist win that competition.

Could we have given the citizens of Thunder Bay a chance to vote on the submissions?

Using Internet, attending City Hall, voting at various businesses, all could have been an option for people to have a say and use this competition as a way to bind our citizens to this project. I say this because it appears so far our community as a whole has failed to rally around the Waterfront Development. It seems as many like it as dislike it and that is unfortunate. What if several artistic works could have made the grade and the budget?

Could we have had several pieces of local art scattered throughout the area?

It is easy to be a sideline quarterback and there will always be naysayers around any decision that is made, that is inevitable.

It just seems that with this project, there may be more bad then good and that is not what a community project should be about. It should bring a community together and create a bond of support that would accept hurdles, meet challenges and create a statement about who and what we are. We are told that is going to happen. I along with many others who have had concerns from the beginning hope we are wrong and that the others are right because at this stage, going back does not appear to be an option.

Just a thought.

James Mauro

NetNewsledger.com would like to welcome James to our masthead as a new columnist. We are positive you will find his pieces interesting, and thought provoking!