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Oil tanks to upscale: waterfront plan in works.

The oil tank farms that propagated on Parry Sound's waterfront until the early 1980s have given way to ambitious plans for an upscale residential and commercial development.


The town's ongoing transformation from working harbour to scenic waterfront is continuing with developers coming forth with big ideas for townhouse, condominium and more tourism-related proposals for the former industrial properties.

Parry Sound residents will get a fresh glimpse and have their say on waterfront revitalization efforts when a new draft version of the community's master plan and vision concept is tabled for viewing June 14 at the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts.

"The residents and visitors alike have a great passion for our waterfront," says Lynn Middaugh, Parry Sound's economic development manager, who's been working on the plan with Toronto's Donna Hinde of The Planning Partnership, in updating the original 1999 document.

"We've had a lot of development as of late and we're really excited about our revised plan. It's nice when you do a master plan and have to update it (several years later) because you've actually met some of the concepts you've put forward and realized."

A shining example is the new Stockey Centre, which sits on a reclaimed Ultramar tank farm property. New provincial ministry offices and the Ontario Provincial Police have relocated nearby and more residential housing units for the end of Prospect Point are being planned.

New owners have purchased the former Shell Oil property and are finishing up its cleanup under the watchful eyes of the Ministry of Environment. But no development proposal has been announced.

Iain Laing, the town's director of community development, estimates there are between 40 and 50 acres of underused or vacant industrial land abutting the harbour, some of it cleaned up, that is available for new development.

Last fall, the town put out a Request for Proposals to redevelop the former Imperial Oil dock lands and the surrounding 15 acres of brownfield on the east side of the harbour.

The best fit appears to be a proposal by Andres Visnapuu, a Seguin Township resident, for an upscale RV Park, condominium development and marina.

"All of the area on that east side is proposed for higher density, upscale residential uses with some commercial accessory support," says Laing.

But brownfield redevelopment remains a big challenge in town, says Middaugh.

The municipality has been in negotiations with Imperial Oil for eight years to purchase the 15 acres of brownfield along Emily Street.

Brownfields are former industrial or commercial sites that are contaminated but are considered prime pieces of real estate.

The Imperial property was remediated in 1986, but today's more stringent environmental requirements for brownfields has given the company concerns about liability issues, which has stalled talks.

As a means to attract new business, The Town of Parry Sound has drawn up a tax-increment equivalent grant program, to offer grants for developers to clean up brownfield sites for redevelopment. The program is awaiting approval from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Affairs.


Northern Ontario Business
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Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jun 1, 2006
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