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'Reasonable' building year expected.

Construction industry kept busy by hospital development around the North

New hospital projects valued at more than $700 million are leading construction activity throughout Northern Ontario.

Thunder Bay, Sudbury and Wawa currently have new hospitals under construction with a total value of more than $300 million, while new hospitals in North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie with a total value of $400,000 are in the development stage.

Of the region's larger centres, only Timmins, which has a hospital less than 10 years old, is without a major hospital project.

Sudbury's new $130-million plus regional hospital is now at peak construction activity and is a factor. in the industry expecting a reasonable building year, says Ron Martin, executive director of the Sudbury Construction Association.

A new $160-miflion regional hospital is also the largest construction project in Thunder Bay, says Harold Lindstrom, manager of the Thunder Bay Construction Association. Both new hospitals are expected to open in the fall of 2002.

Meanwhile, a $13-million-project to replace the existing Lady Dunn Hospital in Wawa is helping to keep construction trades in Sault Ste. Marie active while they wait for construction activity of the city's own new $175-million facility, Rick Thomas, head of the Sault Ste. Marie Construction Association, says.

Officials in Sault Ste. Marie are still in the site-selection stage, making actual construction activity unlikely for this year, but several new long-term care facilities are further into the process and should come on stream this year, adds Thomas.

North Bay's new $225-million hospital, which includes a psychiatric care pavillion as a major component, is also further along, but tenders are not expected until late next year.

"Health care will certainly be a big area for us over the next two or three years," Thomas said. Sault Ste. Marie is also expected to become home to a new regional cancer care clinic within the next few years.

Construction in Sault Ste. Marie to date this year has been slow and behind the pace set in 2000, Thomas says. But the city has several projects in development - a new remand centre, changes to the east end sewage treatment plant, and "an aggressive capital program at Sault College" - which could boost activity back to last year's pace, he adds.

"If we get some of this moving, we could get caught up and carry on into next year," Thomas says.

Activity is now under way on a $75-million redevelopment of Great Lakes Power Ltd.'s High Falls Generating Station on the Michipicoten River, near Wawa, and despite an out-of-province general contractor and specialized work, local contractors are getting a good share of the project, he says. Construction activity in Thunder Bay is on a par with last year, the manager of the Thunder Bay Construction Association notes. The only private development in the works is a new Canadian Tire store with more major projects being undertaken. in the region, including work at the Weyerhaeuser Co. Ltd. paper mill in Dryden and the development of a new Trus Joist plant in Kenora, Lindstrom notes.

Martin, in Sudbury, says the recent funding announcement for the $13-million Dynamic Earth project has some in the industry optimistic work on that project will start this year. Dynamic Earth, to be built at the Big Nickel Mine site, will be a modern geological and mining exhibit centre, a tourist attraction designed to guide visitors through the history, science and technology of the earth.

Also keeping local contractors busy will be a $25.5-million-expansion and renovations planned by Cambrian College now at the tendering stage, Martin adds.

Timmins may not have another new hospital in the works, but activity early this year has been noteworthy.

Work quickly wrapped up this spring on TeleTech Holding Ltd.'s new $3.2-million call centre. Work is nearing completion on the $6-million Shania Twain Centre, and a new $10.5-million francophone secondary school is scheduled to open in September.

Andy Rochon, the president of the Timmins Construction Association expresses concern for the remainder of the year. New residential construction has stalled, he says, and the low price of gold and difficulties in the forestry industry have people and business cautious.

There was some good news, however, in the resource sector for the construction industry. Grant Forest Products will undergo a $31-million expansion at its Timmins mill and Falconbridge is proceeding with a plan to sink its Kidd Creek Mine to the 10,000-foot level, extending its life another 20 years.

In 2000, North Bay construction jumped out of its lethargic state, increasing construction activity about 175 per cent from 1999 and recording the highest level since 1991. This year hasn't kept Pace, but Peter Minogue, economic development commission head, says he is confident last year's performance will be matched.

Construction is set to begin this year on a number of new projects including: Canadore College's $11.5-million aerospace campus at Jack Garland Airport; a $7.2-million community aquatic centre, adjacent to the YMCA's existing Centennial Pool at Thomson Park; and a $25-mililon 190-bed jail and 60-bed treatment facility.

A number of major projects continued from 2000 into the new year include the expansion at Northgate Square; a new student residence at Nipissing University; a passenger terminal at Jack Garland Airport; expansion to the North Bay Police Service headquarters on Princess Street and an $11-million expansion at the university set to open in September 2002.
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Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:May 1, 2001
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