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Sault manufacturer lauded for heritage complex development

Tony Porco, president of Superior Industrial Services, named co-winner of city's 2020 Municipal Heritage Award

A Sault Ste. Marie manufacturer has been recognized for his work reimagining a former paper mill building into the city’s premier multi-purpose events venue.

Tony Porco, president at Superior Industrial Services (SIS Group), has been declared a co-winner of the city’s 2020 Municipal Heritage Award. Porco will share the award with the Algoma Conservatory of Music.

The recipients are being lauded for the redevelopment of a pair of buildings at the former St. Marys Paper mill complex, which permanently closed in 2011.

In business since 1992, SIS Group is an industrial contractor providing services including mechanical and structural installations, pipe installation, rotalign service and precision optical Alignment, millwright service, jet engine maintenance, overhead crane repair services, and electrical maintenance.

Built in 1899 by lumber magnate Francis H. Clergue, the St. Marys Paper buildings were constructed of red-hued sandstone blocks in the Romanesque Revival style.

After St. Marys Paper went into receivership, the site was cleared out and debris was removed. But special efforts were made to preserve the five historical sandstone buildings.

Since taking ownership of The Machine Shop building in 2015, Porco and his company have transformed the 40,000-square-foot structure into a unique conference and performance centre that’s hosted business functions, tradeshows, concerts, and cultural events.

Inside, 15,000 square feet is dedicated to venue space, while an additional 3,000 square feet has been set aside for use as rental units. The Millworks Centre for Entrepreneurship, a city-led small-business incubation space, is a tenant there.

The Machine Shop is also home to a trio of dining establishments: The Mill Steakhouse and Wine Bar; The Boiler Room, which serves pizza and beer; and The Gelato Mill, which serves gelato, coffee and a variety of desserts.

In 2019, the city designated the project as the recipient of its Community Development Award.

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Porco’s most recent development on the site is the construction of a new station for the Agawa Canyon Tour Train, Sault Ste. Marie’s most notable tourist attraction.

The building, which is currently under construction, will house a ticket office, a departure lounge, an exhibit area, and a gift shop.

It will also be home to an exhibition space dedicated to the artwork of the Group of Seven, along with a microbrewery, and an outdoor event centre.

The Algoma Conservatory of Music is being recognized for the redevelopment of an adjacent building, which was formerly used as St. Marys Paper’s headquarters.

There, the organization has transformed the space to host musical performances, classes and other activities.

– With files from David Helwig, SooToday