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Condos, hotel construction begins on Thunder Bay waterfront

Construction work at Thunder Bay ’s Marina Park will continue unabated this winter as a next round of development begins.
Delta Hotels and Resorts will be operating a four-star hotel on Thunder Bay's waterfront by 2014.

Construction work at Thunder Bay’s Marina Park will continue unabated this winter as a next round of development begins.

Contractors were set to pour the foundations for a hotel and condo project in January at the Prince Arthur's Landing project at Marina Park. Delta Hotels and Resorts was chosen by the Resolve Group, the city's hand-picked private sector developer, to operate the four-star hotel.

The forecasted completion date of both the hotel and two seven-storey condos is spring 2014.Kathy Ball, the City of Thunder Bay's operations coordinator for Marina Park, said the city insisted to the developers that the hotel and condos had to be built simultaneously.

Thunder Bay’s booming meetings and conventions business means hotel occupancies are the second highest in Canada, and the city is in dire need of another full-service hotel.The 150-room hotel will offer 9,000 square feet of conference and meeting space and unobstructed harbour views.

Last spring, the city transferred 2.3 acres of property at Marina Park to the Resolve Group to make room for those buildings. The $690,000 deal should return about $1 million in property taxes annually to the city.

The deal included lease agreements for other parcels of city-owned waterfront land including the former CN train station, which could be incorporated into the hotel development, but nothing’s official, said Ball.

More retail will be arriving with the construction of a commercial building which will be finished by summer 2014. As well, a new restaurant opened in early December in the Water Garden Pavilion.

“The number of people coming down and enjoying the park is incredible and now with the restaurant, there will be more people enjoying the facility,” said Ball.Prince Arthur's Landing is a $130-million public-privately funded development meant to connect the downtown with the Lake Superior shoreline, and exhibit the cultural and industrial past of the historic port.

Historical buildings like the former CN train station and Baggage Building are being refurbished for new uses, and new structures have been added.

The development has become a popular year-round mixed-use attraction with an arts centre, skating rink, summer splash pad and skateboard park.

The official ribbon-cutting marking the end of the first construction phase was last July, but the City of Thunder Bay has counted more than 60,000 heads at summer waterfront festivals last year, plus more than 20,000 skaters and 50,000 splash-pad frolickers.

Toronto's Brook McIlroy is in charge of the design while Thunder Bay's Manshield Construction has been handling the structural work.

Thunder Bay's north core has been designated as the city's entertainment district and will be the future home of an arena and convention hall, just a stone's throw from Marina Park.The spinoffs are already noticeable, said Ball, with new establishments opening and existing businesses refurbishing their properties.

“The Court Street-Red River Road corner seems to be the hub right now with another new restaurant this summer and in the past year, about three in that section toward the waterfront.

“Other restaurants have expanded to have larger meeting rooms or larger banquet rooms. There is lots of expansion, lots of new things happening.

“The property owners are quite pumped at the potential at what more could happen.”

Another waterfront revitalization phase involving parkland and a 300-slip marina improvement is on hold following the discovery of historical sunken works – a barge and docks – dating back to the 1800s. A report to city council is still pending to consider alternatives, including leaving the items of “archaelogical interest” in place and installing the slips elsewhere.

While the waterfront revitalization has gotten local tongues wagging for and against the project, its designers, Brooks McIlroy, have won numerous awards for their inspired work in Thunder Bay.

“The vision was incredible the way we were all able to pull this off in two years when for most cities it would take 20 years,” said Ball. “With the (Infrastructure Stimulus) funding deadline moving around, it had to happen, and they (designers) did a fabulous job of making sure it did happen.”

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