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Transformation of former Sault paper mill continues

Performance theatre, recording facility slated for St. Marys admin building
The Algoma Conservatory of Music has received $300,000 toward renovations of the former administration building at the St. Marys Paper mill in Sault Ste. Marie, which will include the development of a new performance venue and recording facility. (Supplied photo)

The transformation of the former St. Marys Paper paper mill in Sault Ste. Marie – from an industrial complex to an event and tourism venue – is continuing, with the development of a performance venue and recording facility for use by the Algoma Conservatory of Music.

Sault MP Terry Sheehan announced $300,000 for the organization on Aug. 14. The funds – which are in addition to the $2.1 million in federal funds announced in 2016 – will go toward ongoing renovations at the former St. Marys administration building out of which the Conservatory has been operating since 2015.

“Enhancing the Algoma Conservatory of Music represents a unique economic opportunity for the organization and the community,” Sheehan said in a news release.

“Thanks to this investment, the Mill Square waterfront complex will become a new culture and enterprise hub for the City of Sault Ste. Marie while helping repurpose the historic St. Mary's Paper Mill site.”

At the new venue, dubbed ‘The Loft,’ the Conservatory is aiming to increase visitations as part of a new tourism destination offering musical performances, education and activities, according to the news release.

Development at the site of the former site of St. Marys Paper, which had operated continuously for more than 100 years, has been ongoing since the paper mill shut its doors permanently in 2011.

While the more modern buildings on site were razed and the materials were hauled away for scrap, efforts were made to preserve the five original buildings, which date to the 1800s and are constructed of timber and sandstone.

After a group of local investors took over one of the main buildings in 2015, they transformed the space into The Machine Shop, a conference and performance centre that hosts business symposia, concerts and cultural events.

Since then, they’ve added 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 one of the adjacent buildings, the city’s economic development department set up the Millworks – Centre for Entrepreneurship in 2016. There, small businesses have access to funds, mentorship and other resources to assist in getting their small enterprises up and running.

Guy Traficante, principal at the Algoma Conservatory of Music, expressed gratitude for the funding, which will help the Conservatory move forward with expansion plans.

“This financial support will help us maximize and equip our new recording studio which will be directly linked to our stunning new third floor performance venue, The Loft, and to The Machine Shop,” Traficante said in the release.

“This makes this one of the finest and most unique recording facilities in Canada. It will also enable our long-time partner, Algoma University, to utilize this space to develop a new commercial music program.”