By Michael Lynch
Thunder Bay may abandon the original concept of a "prestige business park" and turn the property into a truck plaza to service the needs of truckers.
Truck plazas provide a variety of services for truckers, ranging from fuel and maintenance facilities to showers and lounges.
The park is ideally situated for truckers. It is on the TransCanada Highway where the vast majority of trucks travel through the city. Moreover, the location provides expressway access to the centre of the city, says Rene Larson, a Thunder Bay city councillor.
Truck plazas require adequate space to allow big rigs to manoeuvre for fuelling and parking. Innova Park, as it is known, offers 71 acres with lot sizes ranging from 0.3 hectares to 3.2 hectares. Lot prices start at $70,000.
"There's been a keen interest by oil companies in establishing a trucking centre in the city," says Larson. It was Larson's idea for the park that prompted the city's economic development department to study the concept.
Larson says one of major factors that makes Innova Park attractive for a trucking centre is that it has full municipal services, unlike many other truck stops in Northern Ontario that have to rely on septic fields and well water.
Richard Pohler, a development officer with Development Thunder Bay who is gathering information for a report on the idea for Thunder Bay city council, says the four oil companies he approached all expressed interest in the preliminary concept. Pohler says he talked with Petro-Canada, Shell Canada, Husky Oil and Esso (Imperial Oil).
"We have a lot of questions that need to be answered, but we're interested and want to hear more," says John Hamilton, senior communications adviser with Petro-Canada in Toronto.
Hamilton says for the past couple of years Petro-Canada has been searching for a property in the area that has lots of room for trucks to manoeuvre.
"We want to establish a state-of-the-art trucking centre," Hamilton says.
He says Petro-Canada has 200 centres across Canada that service trucks, ranging from small single-pump facilities to larger facilities that contain restaurants, showers, weigh scales, vacuums and trucker lounges.
Larson says there is only one business on the Innova Park property.
"The city has about $4 million invested in Innova Park, not counting interest," he says