After a lot of work guided by ambition for and careful consideration of Sault Ste. Marie’s future, the City has developed an exciting project to create a community space in the heart of the downtown core.

Over the past few years, I have been working hard with staff on the planning of the downtown plaza, and I want to recognize their efforts. The report presented to City Council containing conceptual designs and details about potential features is the result of our collective efforts.

At Monday evening’s meeting, City Council decided to move forward with the plaza project and acquire a piece of property to facilitate our plans. Construction is expected to begin in the spring.

The plaza will be a four season community space that connects the waterfront and the downtown area. It will serve as a gathering space that increases activity in the downtown, which will drive investment and assessment growth. The cruise ship visitors provide an example of potential opportunity. With the addition of a BeaverTails location near the Roberta Bondar Pavilion and the creation of a vendors market, we have seen more visitors spending time in the waterfront area. A plaza that links the waterfront to the downtown area would help spread the positive impact to another area of our community.

The report to Council outlines the entertaining and engaging features the plaza could incorporate to ensure activity throughout the year; from a water feature to a play feature to a stage, lighting and large viewing screen, to public art, to trees and benches to a skating rink.

The adage, ‘If you build it, they will come’, applies to this project. There is clearly an appetite for increased activity in the downtown area. The recent success of the Community Art Project, Jurassic Park, Poutine Feast and the Downtown Street Parties demonstrates this fact, and the plaza will serve as a welcoming space for people to gather and socialize on a more regular basis. For example, the Street Parties organized by the Downtown Association have proven to be popular and well-attended, but it is not feasible to regularly close Queen Street. A space such as a plaza provides a location where these kinds of events can be held more frequently without disrupting a large stretch of road.

As outlined in my inaugural address at the outset of this Council term: we need to move from maintaining the community we have, to building the community we want. The plaza project is a significant step towards fulfilling this vision. It is an investment in our community, structured in a responsible way (within the current levy). The end result will be an attractive community space in the heart of the downtown core that will be enjoyed for years to come.