Town hoping to lease tourist centre

Duane Hicks

Fort Frances might end up leasing the Ontario Travel Information Centre building it has been pursuing use of since the provincial service was shut down nearly two years ago.
Council passed a resolution Monday night that the town investigate and negotiate an agreement with Infrastructure Ontario for leasing the former tourist information centre at the corner of Central Avenue and Church Street.
In an interview after the meeting, Mayor Roy Avis noted several OTICs in Northwestern Ontario were shuttered by the Liberal government a couple years ago.
At that time, the town approached the province and asked if it could re-open the building; and has been in negotiations ever since.
“During the summer months, we’ve had students at the bridge with tents over top of them and sitting in lawn chairs, handing out brochures and trying to promote the Town of Fort Frances,” Mayor Avis noted.
“Now we feel that it’s more critical than ever, because of the situation of our mill, that we really try to enhance our tourism information in this area,” he added.
The town is proposing to lease the building. But Mayor Avis also stressed, “We’re not going to go into it ourselves.”
“We think that it’s a valuable spot where it is,” he remarked. “There’s been interest shown by other people.
“There’s a good chance that we can pick [private-sector] partners up that will offset the cost.
“There’s a lot of things we think we can do with [the OTIC],” the mayor added.
“Will it be a money-maker? No.
“Will it break even? That’s what we’re hoping for—is that it will break even and it will enhance our future in the tourist trade.”
Mayor Avis explained the whole situation with the OTIC is happening fast, noting the town only received an indication last week that the province is open to leasing.
A business plan is being put together right now, he added, which will be brought back to council next month.