Waterfront proposal gearing up for Heritage Fund

Moving Front Street north to make room for a special events site on the south side of the street next to the Sorting Gap Marina is the option town council gave the nod to as it now looks to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund for funding on its waterfront development proposal.
Mayor Glenn Witherspoon expected an application would go to the Heritage Fund next month after Hilderman, Thomas, Frank, and Cram wrapped up its study for the next council meeting Sept. 28.
Consultants Jeff Port and Jeff Frank presented their final draft report to council Monday night, which included extending the walkway and bicycle path to Victoria Avenue, as well as making room for a possible Canadian Sport Fishing Museum and Hall of Fame.
“The major component of this is the reconfiguration and expansion of Sorting Gap Marina,” said Frank, noting they would widen the launch to accommodate two boats at a time and double the number of boat slips.
“I guess the bottom line here is about $1.2 million,” he said.
The rest of the project’s cost would come from senior government funding.
“We are going to make the assumption of 50 percent funding on this thing. It’s good timing now to go to the Heritage Fund,” Port added, noting the Heritage Fund had money and there was talk of a spring election.
It was the issue of economic development that concerned Mayor Witherspoon, who stressed that was important in getting provincial funding.
“In your report, have you addressed enough of that?” he asked.
“We think we’ve taken some pretty safe assumptions,” Port assured.
That includes $1.6 million new dollars spent each year in the community, which would come from getting existing traffic to stop for half-a-day, luring one percent of the boat traffic from the U.S. side of the lake, and having two special events in addition to the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship each July.
“We know that from the community point of view . . . the promenade’s number one [priority],” Port noted, but stressed in order to look for senior government funding, they had to “dress it up and make it look like a different animal.”
While the study focused on developing the waterfront from the Sorting Gap to Victoria Avenue, Frank said a number of other issues tied in, including the border crossing and developing Church Street as a major transportation corridor through town.
Traffic coming off the bridge would travel down Church Street to Victoria Avenue, then south to Front Street.
Meanwhile, there was another option which wouldn’t require Front Street to be moved. Instead, the parking lot would be moved north and the retaining wall would have to be moved north 4.5 metres.
With that option, though, more concrete would be visible (detracting from the “park” atmosphere), and day-to-day traffic basically would be driving through the parking lot.
But Port stressed council wasn’t tied in to one option although one had to be chose for the purpose of seeking funding. And issues still have to be worked out with Abitibi-Consolidated regarding moving Front Street, as well as possibly moving the fence along Victoria Avenue in some 10 feet to accommodate street changes there.
“They’re prepared to talk about that and work that through,” Frank said.
“Final decisions on the layout will proceed if you get the funding,” Port added.