Smooth Rock Falls is aiming to become a one-of-a-kind destination with help from its newly released Waterfront Master Plan.
In September, the town made public the 39-page document that outlines its intentions for 140 acres of prime waterfront real estate, which will roll out over the next 20 years.
“The Smooth Rock Falls Waterfront Master Plan is both a vision and an action strategy to enhance the important role the Mattagami River plays to the future of the community in terms of environmental, economic and social sustainability,” said the town in a news release.
“The Master Plan outlines a vision for incremental, long-term changes along the waterfront district. The plan includes an Action Strategy that will move the Master Plan from conceptual plan to reality. The strategy will be used to guide the Town and its partners in focusing support, setting priorities and allocating budgets.”
Prepared by J.L. Richards & Associates, the document outlines the town’s high-level intentions for the property: reinforce Smooth Rock Falls as regional a economic engine; establish a highly connected destination for the region; drive growth and development connecting to surrounding districts; expand the town’s Green Space Network; create and extend pedestrian networks; prioritize sustainability and resilience: mitigating and responding to climate change.
Ultimately, the town wants to build on its economic development initiatives, with a focus on tourism, while also strengthening the amenities for people living there.
Among the highlights of the space, the town wants to create a series of trails within the site, with a focus on pedestrians and cyclists.
But there will also be room for development; a civic centre, cultural pavilions, residential units, eco accommodations, and an amphitheatre are all part of the plan.
There is a keen recognition that this level of development will take place over time, with thoughtful planning and consideration, and a commitment to sustainability.
“A large-scale development of the waterfront lands is anticipated to be phased out over several years,” notes the document.
“The precise phasing of individual buildings will ultimately depend on market conditions and absorption; however, it is important that early phases incorporate a comprehensive and flexible animation strategy to support tenants.”
According to a tentative timeline, some residential lots, the civic centre, and a marina and boat launch could be developed in years one to five.
Starting in year three and extending into years 15 or 20, the town would develop an Indigenous learning pavilion, a zipline, playgrounds, and boardwalks, as well as other cultural and institutional amenities.
Ongoing work would include the expansion of the trail system, mobile popup retail, and snowshoe and snowmobile trails.
It’s recognized that much of the plan is contingent on sourcing funding from public and private partners.
The release of the Waterfront Master Plan is part of a continuum of forward-thinking choices made by the town over the last several years.
It started in 2014 with the development of a 20-year Official Plan, which includes a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) and a marketing campaign.
Four years later, under its CIP, Smooth Rock Falls launched a package of financial incentives to encourage more development in town, including discounted land prices, tax breaks, business grants, and loan guarantees.
The move garnered international attention, with several families relocating to the town from across Ontario and Canada.
Just last year, the town opened a 9.57-acre industrial park that has 12 lots serviced with water, wastewater, electrical, telecommunications, natural gas, and rough grading.
Located at the former Tembec sawmill, which closed in 2006, the park runs alongside the Mattagami River, with access to a rail line nearby.
The town’s goal was to attract companies operating in the mining and transportation industries, to service and supply nearby mine exploration and development operations.