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Developer remains optimistic.

The Richardson Group of North Bay has become a barometer for forecasting building activity in North Bay and much of northeastern Ontario.

Company president Phil Richardson admits that North Bay has felt the effects of the recession, but he still remains optimistic about the future.

The Richardson Group is planning a $16-million proposal called Trout Lake Square, which includes a 100-room Days Inn hotel and 50,000 square feet of retail space.

However, North Bay's D. J. Venasse of D.J. Venasse Construction is less optimistic.

"There isn't that much going (in construction). Everything out for public tender is going to southern Ontario companies," complains Venasse.

His company is currently renovating the North Bay Hydro building and constructing a $3-million, 39-unit apartment building for the Castle Arms Non-Profit Apartment Corp.

Construction in North Bay peaked in 1989 at $90 million and, as forecast by city officials, has declined since then.

The commercial construction sector, however, was a bright spot last year. There was $14 million worth of new property constructed and $7.2 million worth of additions in 1991. That compared to $2.4 million in new commercial and $4 million in additions in 1990.

The projects completed last year include a Royal Bank office building on Stockdale Road and the Algonquin Square plaza on McKewon Avenue.

The volume of commercial development is expected to decrease this year. Planned projects include the construction of new Tim Horton's and McDonald's restaurants and a renovation of the Plaza One development.

Activity in the industrial construction sector has also tapered off. New projects include buildings for Beauticians Supply Limited, Teck Exportations and Alliance des Caise Populaires.

Last year there was $975,560 worth of new industrial building and $969,000 worth of additions and renovations. That compared to slightly more than $1 million in each of these categories in 1990.

The projects completed last year include an industrial mall for J.P. Investments and additions to facilities owned by Uniroc Tools Corp. and Bavarian Meat Products Ltd.

Institutional projects such as the Commerce Court campus of Canadore College and a new student residence buoyed the construction sector over the past two years, but activity in this sector is also decreasing.

Rolf Vassbotn, North Bay's chief building official, predicts that there will be only a limited amount of institutional construction this year.

"To my knowledge institutional and government work will be slow this year, and the recession is the reason for this," says Vassbotn.

"We are not as affected by the ups and downs as in southern Ontario, but we will be down from last year," he adds.

Current institutional projects include buildings for the district headquarters of the Ministry of Government Services and the North Bay and District Humane Society.

Stephen Sajatovic, North Bay's director of planning and development, predicts that the health-care sector will provide the next round of major institutional construction.

However, a proposal for a new $106-million hospital from the North Bay District Health Centre Board was turned down by the province because of the cost. Board members are currently working on a new proposal.

Harry Weiskopt, president of the North Bay and District Homebuilders' Association, had hoped that construction would pick up this summer, but his optimism has been dampened.

Weiskopt believes consumer confidence has not improved despite measures taken by the federal government to induce first-time homebuyers to take the plunge.

"Lowering the downpayment has had an effect on resales. The RRSP (incentive), I have no evidence it has done anything," he says.

However, Weiskopt reports that the renovation business in North Bay is brisk.
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Title Annotation:North Bay Report; Richardson Group of North Bay
Author:Brown, Stewart
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Words:597
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