Council backs redeveloping ‘RL’

Duane Hicks

The town has given its blessing to a grant application to redevelop the vacant Rainy Lake Hotel into a market square.
Council approved a funding application Monday night to be submitted to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp., under the Strategic Economic Infrastructure Program, in hopes of securing funds for the project.
In doing so, council committed up to $150,000 towards the project, as well as $30,000 in in-kind services.
It also is committed to the ongoing operation of the Rainy Lake Market Square project, and is willing to cover any project and/or operating cost overruns.
After the meeting, Mayor Roy Avis said the Rainy Lake Market Square project is “number one” on council’s wish list of projects they’d like to see get government funding for.
And it has the support of the Northern Development and Mines minister Michael Gravelle.
“We’re very, very excited,” Mayor Avis enthused. “We feel that this project [has] a chance to go ahead.
“For us to fund that by ourselves, take it down, it wouldn’t happen,” he admitted.
“It wouldn’t happen this year, it wouldn’t happen next year, it wouldn’t happen in many years because of the cost involved and the type of structure it is.
“We’re excited,” Mayor Avis reiterated.
“We want to see that happen to try and develop our downtown area moreso and give ourselves a little better feeling, to try and unite the community.”
The grant application will be for more than a $1 million, with contributions from partners such as the Downtown BIA and town.
“We’ll definitely have to put some money into it,” Mayor Avis conceded.
“But if you look at the size of the project, it’s going to be a very minor contribution.”
The mayor added the $150,000 commitment noted above is on the “high side.”
As reported last week, the Rainy River Future Development Corp. met with BIA members and Chamber of Commerce president Mark Caron last Wednesday to discuss the proposal.
Stage one would entail taking down the old hotel and preparing the site—but not eliminating the history of the local landmark.
“In building whatever we’re going to build, it’s going to be in the spirit and honour of that facility,” RRFDC consultant Tannis Drysdale told the meeting.
“We’re not going to lay waste to it and forget it was there.”
The second stage would include redeveloping the property into a market square.
“The anticipation is that we would build a farmers’ market and pull-through traffic parking for larger vehicles, which has always been sort of a conundrum in our downtown,” noted Drysdale.
“If you have a boat or trailer, it’s hard to find a place to stop on Scott Street,” she conceded.
“So we’d provide that, as well as parking for folks that would want to go to the market square.”
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.
If the funding bid is successful, the project could start by this summer.
The redevelopment of the Rainy Lake Hotel should come as welcome news to many.
The local landmark has been vacant since 2005, not drawn any serious interest from the private sector, and increasingly has become prohibitive to repair.
The fate of the old building has been at the centre of discussion for the past few years, including the focus of a task force comprised of local stakeholders and a study commissioned by the BIA.