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North Bay studies waterfront options

The frozen shores of North Bay ’s waterfront may be a magnet for ice anglers, but the city wants to attract more people down to Lake Nipissing on a year-round basis.
The City of North Bay wants to maximize the commercial tourism potential of the government wharf on its waterfront.

The frozen shores of North Bay’s waterfront may be a magnet for ice anglers, but the city wants to attract more people down to Lake Nipissing on a year-round basis.

The city embarked last year on a waterfront tourist commercial attraction feasibility study looking to attract more tourists and create jobs.

Armed with $150,000 from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, the city hired a consulting team led by local architect Paul Mitchell, to come up with ideas and solicit public opinion over the winter to shape their recommendations to council.

A big question is what to do with the city marina and, in particular, King’s Landing wharf, the former government dock now owned by the city.

“It’s getting to the stage that it’s going to require some significant capital investment,” said Beverley Hillier, the city’s manager of planning services.

Among the options on the table are to fix the wharf, demolish it and build a new breakwater with a new dock for the Chief Commanda cruise ship, or build a larger new wharf with cruise ship docking and the potential to construct new facilities.

The least expensive option comes in at $2.5 million. The most expensive reaches $13.5 million.

Public input was gathered over the winter from residents, downtown operators, Heritage North Bay and a variety of groups.

The commercial attraction study is expected to be wrapped up and before council by the end of February. Also to be decided is whether the city-owned marina should be privatized.

The suggestions the consultants have put forward include establishing a coffee shop-restaurant, recreational watercraft and bike rentals, an artisans retail outlet, an improved cruise ship operation, better beach and marina washrooms and showers, fishing charters, splash pad and skateboard park, among other things.

The plans for the wharf are being done in concert with other ongoing work on the city’s waterfront, specifically Heritage North Bay and the Community Waterfront Friends, a volunteer group that’s overseeing the restoration of former railway lands into public space.

Over the last decade, more than $20 million has been invested to buy up 35 acres of railway lands from Canadian Pacific to set aside as park.

The former passenger terminal was renovated into a museum and a pedestrian underpass connects the downtown with the waterfront. Years ago, North Bay residents shot down a provincial government tourism initiative to give $15 million to each of the five Northern cities if they built a large destination tourism attraction. North Bay’s idea was Passage North, a proposed $30-million railway-themed project.

“I think we’re really cautious on doing some sort of destination attraction because they require a significant amount of continual operating costs and investment,” said Hiller. “That’s not the approach we want to take. We’re looking at something sustainable on its own, complementary, not competitive and that’s going to attract four-season investment into the area.”

Nearby a prime piece of waterfront land – albeit heavily contaminated – is the former Kenroc drill bits factory site, a city-owned property which remains unoccupied.

Plans for a hotel and conference centre fell through and a couple of proposal requests produced nothing.

Hillier said how much site remediation is required would depend on what would be a prospective residential, industrial or commercial developer would want to build.

“The cleanup cost is significant.”

The property remains for sale, but the city is not actively marketing it.

“If somebody came forward with some sort of proposal, certainly we would be more than willing to look at it. We don’t have a formal proposal out.”

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