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Sault determined to develop waterfront land: Gateway tourism attraction still in cards.

Going back to the drawing board is getting to be the norm in Sault Ste. Marie Sault Sainte Marie — pronounced "Soo Saint Marie" (IPA /su seɪnt məˈɹi/) — is the name of two cities on the Saint Marys River, which forms part of the boundary between the United States and Canada.  when it comes to selecting a committed and deep-pocketed developer for the city's waterfront Gateway site.

Not much has been done to the weed-infested 14-acre brownfield property on the St. Mary's River which has been dormant for more than a decade. City officials have entertained a parade of a half-dozen wannabe developers who have either faded away or produced nothing, the last being Toronto's CCI CCI Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie (France)
CCI CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) Citation Index
CCI Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Western Australia) 
 Development Group.

"It's overgrown overgrown

said of a part that has not been kept trimmed.

overgrown hoof
overgrown hooves put unusual stresses on bones and tendons and allow for distortion of the wall and sole.
 but it's still a prime piece of waterfront property," said Ian McMillan, the city's tourism director. "There's been a long history of out-of-town developers coming along and pitching different opportunities, theories and strategies.

"We're looking at a made-in-Sault Ste. Marie approach. We've made steps forward. We think we have some ideas and we have a different approach on how to develop the site."

After the city's disastrous and acrimonious fling with Toronto developer Phil Garforth and his vision of tropical bio-domes two years ago, the tourism department asked to take the ball and run with it for six months. "Unfortunately it was the worst six months in the history of the planet," said McMillan about last fall's global financial market meltdown.

Instead of going down the well-worn path of an "angel" private investor coming with another conceptual air castle, tourism and city officials intend to map out a site plan and bring various partners and investment to the table to create some sort of landmark tourist attraction augmented by a restaurant and some retail.

Still hanging like tempting fruit on the province's branch since the late 1990s has been $15 million in the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund's coffers. (NOHFC NOHFC Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (Government of Ontario, Canada) ). It was originally introduced and earmarked by the Harris government for so-called destination tourism attractions in Northern Ontario.

That money kick-started the construction of the Shania Twain Centre in Timmins and Science North building its satellite Dynamic Earth mining attraction in Sudbury.

Sault tourism and economic development officials intend to make a presentation to the NOHFC board this fall asking for a two-year extension of a late December deadline to keep that incentive money available to land a private developer.

Part of McMillan's upcoming sales pitch to NOHFC was a designation by the Ministry of Tourism that the Sault was a 'Gateway site to Ontario.'

"If so, to grow back the U.S. market that's abandoned us, we should develop a compelling reason for Americans to cross the International Bridge."

McMillan said the Sault is the only major Northern Ontario city without a publicly-funded tourism attraction. Thunder Bay has its Fort William Historical Park Fort William Historical Park (formerly known as Old Fort William) is a Canadian historical site located in Thunder Bay, Ontario, that contains a reconstruction of the Fort William fur trade post as it existed in 1815. It officially opened on July 3, 1973. , North Bay has the Chief Commanda cruise ship and northeastern Ontario has the publicly-funded Northlander passenger train and Polar Bear Express.

Generally, tourism attractions are money losers at start-up so the city wants to try a more cautious, staged approach. MacMillan said they are entertaining the idea of establishing a not-for-profit organization, inspired by the story of the Science North attraction.

Last spring, McMillan and group of Sault tourism officials met with Science North head Jim Marchbank and his staff in Sudbury to learn about their tourism model and how the city pulled together their 'community champions' and secured corporate sponsorships as a not-for-profit organization.

To get activity started at Gateway, the city is talking with Canadian National Railway Canadian National Railway, rail system in Canada and the United States, extending from coast to coast in Canada with many branch lines in each province and in the United States.  about relocating the Agawa Canyon Tour Train passenger depot from the Station Mall over a few hundred metres to the site which sits opposite the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation's charity casino.

The railway track bisects the northern half of the Gateway site.

McMillan would also like to see Algoma Central Properties, owners of the Station Mall and the former Holiday Inn, soon to be re-opened in 2010 at as a Delta-branded hotel, come to the table, though he has had no formal discussions with them.

"They have a strong commitment to the community and a vested interest Vested Interest

A financial or personal stake one entity has in an asset, security, or transaction.

For example, if you have a mortgage, your bank has a vested interest on the sale of your house.
See also: Right
 in tourism and retail, "said MacMillan. "It makes sense that we could have a conversation with them about potential retail on that site."

In the meantime Adv. 1. in the meantime - during the intervening time; "meanwhile I will not think about the problem"; "meantime he was attentive to his other interests"; "in the meantime the police were notified"
meantime, meanwhile
, McMillan is leafing through a stack of 37 public submissions for the Gateway calling for a permanent casino, an indoor/outdoor water park, a Florida-style theme park and various regionally and nature-inspired fun parks.

While the property sits in limbo, dependent on the North American economic recovery, McMillan said he still fields the occasional calls from tire-kicking developers whenever the story resurfaces in the media.

"At this point we're not looking for a knight in shining armour from out of town to come and develop the site."

Whether or not the municipality sells or leases the property will be up to city council, he said.


Northern Ontario Business Northern Ontario Business is a Canadian magazine, which publishes monthly in Greater Sudbury, Ontario. The magazine covers business news and issues in Northern Ontario.
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Title Annotation:SAULT STE. MARIE
Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Nov 1, 2009
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