Thursday, October 23, 2014

Business owners pleased with funding

The vacant Rainy Lake Hotel will be demolished and redeveloped into the Rainy Lake Market Square in the future thanks to nearly $1 million from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. (NOHFC) and downtown business owners couldn’t be happier.
“I think it’s a great idea and I’m looking forward to seeing it happen,” voiced Ted DeBenetti, owner of A Buck Or Two. “The BIA has been working very hard to help promote it and, now with the town on board, it looks like it’s going to happen.

“I’m very excited to have something done with that area,” he continued. “I think it will do a lot for the downtown core.”
“It’s going to look a lot different, but I think it’s going to look a lot better,” expressed Dan Cousineau of Cousineau Real Estate Ltd.
“I think having that open space will mean a lot for downtown, a place to have small events in the summer and even in the wintertime, a place to gather,” he added.
“It’s great news,” echoed Jennifer Horton, owner of Curvy Chick. “It will be great for the future of the downtown area.
“I’m really looking forward to it becoming something that’s usable and a positive part of the community,” she added.
Besides the beautification part of it, DeBenetti noted creating a market square will give new entrepreneurs a chance to get their feet wet in business.
“Like a little business incubator,” he exclaimed. “It will help someone come in with an idea and they can give it a shot at the market square. Maybe the next thing you know, they’ll try to go out for a full out business.
“So I think it is positive all around,” he voiced.
Meanwhile, Richard Boileau of McTaggart’s said he’s “absolutely thrilled,” although admitting the deconstruction phase might be a challenge.
“But it’s a challenge we’ll get through,” he ensured. “As much as we’d all like that old building to stay that old building with something in it, it’s just not feasible.
“We’re happy that it’s finally going to lay to rest and move forward,” he stressed. “It’s exciting to see more progress in downtown Fort Frances.”
Mayor Roy Avis learned of the good news Monday afternoon after meeting with Northern Development and Mines minister Michael Gravelle during the 2014 Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) conference in London, Ont.
“We were told that we’ve received the money—$997,500 for the demolition and the creation of a market square on Scott Street,” he confirmed.
“It’s a very progressive move for the community. I think as we move forward, and we re-brand ourselves, that this is going to become a real major part of the puzzle in developing our downtown core,” added Mayor Avis, who is attending the conference along with Coun. Paul Ryan and town CAO Mark McCaig.
“Looking forward, it’s a real healthy move for the community,” he noted.
“I’m more than pleased that we got this. It’s going to be really, really good for the downtown area,” added Mayor Avis.
Mayor Avis said the town is now waiting to hear back from Fed Nor regarding funding from the federal government, and he is hopeful “it’s going to fall into line.”
The Rainy Lake Market Sqaure project is expected to cost about $2 million.
The Rainy River Future Development Corp. submitted funding proposals both to NOFHC and FedNor this past spring.
In addition to the funding from NOHFC, the town has asked for $650,000 from FedNor. The town and local BIA together will be contributing about $300,000 in real and in-kind expenditures.
Long-time coming
The idea of demolishing the old hotel and redeveloping the property into a market square has been in the works for several years, and is not being done without due consultation.
The local landmark has been vacant and on the market since 2005, not drawn any serious interest from the private sector, and increasingly has become prohibitive to repair.
In 2010, the BIA commissioned a study regarding the demolition and redevelopment of the property, a process which included input from the public.
In the fall of 2011, the town struck a committee including representation from the BIA, Chamber of Commerce, RRFDC, Economic Development Advisory Committee, and Town of Fort Frances. This committee did six presentations to stakeholders and held a public meeting.
The recommendation from the committee was that if there was a private sector option available it would be pursued, but after several inspections of the property, it became clear the property itself has significant structural issues.
The recommendation was then to go with the direction proposed by the BIA study: to demolish the building and to develop the property into a market square.
More research was done on how funding could be obtained for the project, which would need the support of town council and stakeholders.
Before funding proposals were submitted to the NOHFC and FedNor this past spring, the RRFDC met with BIA members and Chamber of Commerce president Mark Caron, as well as the Clover Valley Farmers’ Market, and received support from all of these parties for the Rainy Lake Market Square project.
Project outline
Stage one of the project will entail taking down the old hotel, and preparing the site, but not eliminating the history of the local landmark.
Whatever is going to be built will be in the spirit and honour of the historic hotel.
The second stage will include redeveloping the property into a market square.
This will include a farmers’ market and pull-through traffic parking for larger vehicles, such as tourists with boats and trailers.
The market square also would feature indoor and outdoor market space for vendors, with the latter being a building to house them from the elements.

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