By IAN ROSS
The long-awaited Gateway project may finally have shovels in the ground by late summer.
With the project’s white knight, Grimsby entrepreneur Rick Holmes, deep in negotiations with the banks to finalize about $37.5 million in private financing for the proposed $53-million regional tourist attraction, the City of Sault Ste. Marie’s head planner remains optimistic construction could begin by September for a summer 2004 opening.
“It is a very complex project to put together,” which includes a $15-million commitment from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. (NOHFC), says Don McConnell, the city’s director of planning,
“This project kind of morphs as it goes along and has gone through several different versions in an effort to buy everyone in - the banks, the city, NOHFC and the developer - at the bottom line.”
The plan is to build a 50,000-square-foot arts, culture, heritage and entertainment attraction on the city’s riverfront. The attraction has been renamed Legacy Quest.
Details of the corporate structure and financing arrangements were not yet complete by late March, but McConnell expressed confidence the entire package would appear before city councillors for approval sometime in April before heading to Heritage Fund and the province’s Management Board for final approval.
The city will then transfer ownership of 14.3 acres of prime waterfront property, adjacent to the Sault’s charity casino, to Holmes.
Holmes, who is president and CEO of Kittling Ridge Winery and Suites, located in the Niagara region, was lured to the Sault by the city’s project developer, MagiCorp. Entertainment Inc.
The Toronto-based entertainment development company, since renamed Legacy Quest, came on board in November 2001 to prepare a concept and feasibility study for the Gateway project and seek potential private-sector financing.
Components of the 50,000-square-foot attraction include a large participatory learning studio, a major interactive theatre experience, an adventurers gallery dedicated to showcasing the heroes of the North, and 10,000 to 12,000 square-feet of exhibition space.
“The Legacy Quest theme has been clearly defined,” says McConnell, “and much work has been done on the preparation of a business plan now under review by the city.”
Other components include: a 150-room four-star hotel connected to the casino by walkway, a 10,000 square-foot restaurant and food market based on an Italian village theme, a 5,000-square-foot railway museum incorporating the Algoma Central Railway train station, a 500-seat performing arts facility and parking for 400 vehicles.