There isn't a lot of industrial land left in Sault Ste. Marie, and what remains is being snapped up fast.
City councillors agreed Sept. 18 to sell one 13.1-acre property on Yates Avenue to PUC Transmission for $1.1 million for a distribution station needed to power Algoma Steel's still-under-construction electric arc furnaces (EAFs).
In a second approved transaction, Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Great Lakes Fishery Commission will buy a 6.7-acre parcel of city-owned industrial land on Yates for $334,500.
Then, councillors voted to initiate an environmental assessment on a proposed road extension intended to open up more industrial land on Wood Park Court, two kilometres west of Yates Avenue.
Since James Caicco at Century 21 Choice Realty Inc. was retained one year ago to market the city's industrial property, other sales or pending/ conditional sales have been made to Steel Speed, Vector Freight Systems and Trimount Construction Group.
On Yates Avenue, 31 acres of industrial land have been sold or conditionally sold, leaving just 13 acres remaining there.
"There's a real benefit marketing this outside our city, through the methods of real estate," Caicco tells SooToday. "But also, you have to get the Economic Development Corp. and the city credit. We work as a team on this."
Caicco particularly credits Rick Van Staveren, the city's director of economic development.
"I really credit him because when he took over his role, he saw that this land had been sitting there since they developed it, and he thought it's got to be marketed."
"And since then, we've had great luck with it. What the EDC was offering for it before we listed it was under the price now, and they they still couldn't get activity."
"It seems we're getting a healthy mix. About 50 per cent of our interest is local and 50 per cent of its from out of town," Caicco said.
The Yates Avenue PUC Transmission site was chosen for its close proximity to Algoma Steel.
"The station will straddle the Yates Avenue property being requested for purchase as well as a portion of current Algoma Steel owned property," Van Staveren said in a report prepared for Mayor Shoemaker and councillors.
"Due to the location of the transmission station and existing uses of abutting property owned by Algoma Steel, this configuration is required. This transmission station will be an integral part of infrastructure supporting the Algoma Steel EAF project and will support future growth opportunities in the city," he said.
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission originally talked to the city about building two structures on Yates Avenue. One was to have been a 20,000-square-foot warehouse for chemicals and equipment used to control sea lamprey.
In his report to city council submitted last week Van Staveren said the second building will "accommodate 50-70 staff" and "will generate between 50 and 75 new skilled positions."
However, a last-minute update from Van Staveren on Monday told a different story.
"No office buildings are proposed to be built at this point," he said. "The warehouse building will support existing Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) staff currently working in Sault Ste. Marie. DFO staff are contracted by the Great Lakes Commission to carry out sea lamprey control on behalf of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission."
"No new staff will be added at this point," Van Staveren said in his updated report.
Near the Arauco wood products plant on Base Line, Wood Park Court is said to have as much as 60 acres of developable land but about one-third of those properties near the waterfront have restrictions related to zoning, wetlands and water-related issues.
"The property is bordered by Leighs Bay Road on the west which is a non-serviced gravel road, and Wood Park Court located near the centre of the property which is a 175-metre paved access road that is serviced," Van Staveren said.
"To maximize the number of saleable acres, Wood Park Court will need to be extended approximately 400 metres south."
"City staff has interest from proponents on the Wood Park Court property currently and, with the recent sales of land on Yates Avenue, additional industrial land is required to continue business growth and expansion."