‘Re-Inventing’ group holds workshop

The “Re-Inventing Fort Frances” project took another step forward to determining what needs to be changed to improve the town following a meeting last Friday.
“Re-Inventing” chair Susan Bodnarchuk said yesterday that about 25 people attended the meeting, including local business owners as well as reps from Abitibi-Consolidated and the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, local Kiwanis and Lions Club members, local youths and International Falls Mayor Harry Swendsen.
“It was a really good cross-section that was represented. It was very interesting,” she noted. “We found people had a lot to say, whether it was new ideas, current trends, or old problems that need to be solved.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm there.”
The workshop was led by Jeff Frank, project manager for the feasibility study being conducted by Winnipeg-based consultants Hilderman, Thomas, Frank and Cram (HTFC), assisted by Jeff Coy, HTFC marketing sub-consultant.
They provided background information about the current business climate in Fort Frances, traffic issues, tourism issues, and an analysis of the physical organization of the town.
“We’re waiting for a report back from the consultants that takes the people’s ideas at this meeting into account,” said Bodnarchuk.
She added the next step in the study’s process is to hold a public meeting sometime next month. A specific date and time will be announced shortly.
HTFC then will take into account this input, and consider it while compiling a draft report scheduled to be released by the end of January.
As previously reported, one of the projects the “Re-Inventing” group would like to see is a large “fort” structure located as a gateway to the downtown area.
It would house multiple services to visitors, such as Ontario tourism services, a duty-free and Canadian products shop, a fish and wildlife museum, a currency exchange, and the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce.
Concepts for renovating old Fort Frances High School on First Street East, the old CN station on Fourth Street West, and other local historical structures also are being discussed by the committee.
There also are plans for developing additional heritage art and statuary attractions for young people, a comprehensive parking and traffic plan for the downtown area, and landing more industry here.
The consultants are working under a contract awarded by the town in July. This contract is funded by grants from FedNor, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp., the Town of Fort Frances, and the Rainy River Future Development Corp.
Abitibi-Consolidated and local groups like the Business Improvement Area, Chamber of Commerce, and Business Women’s Network also have contributed to the funding.

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