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.
There have been a lot of positive developments in the downtown area from new patios at several businesses, to street furniture including pianos, to murals and unveiling celebrations.
FutureSSM’s most recent quarterly update was presented to City Council at Monday evening’s meeting and it included details on several projects that resulted in the developments mentioned above. These types of projects represent quality of life investments that are needed to ensure our youth, our young professionals and tradespeople see a life for themselves in our community, and it is great to see them moving forward.
The City is committed to the downtown area, and to seeing it thrive. Simply put, if the City continues to help develop a downtown where people want to spend time through initiatives such as the Community Art Project, commercial investment will follow. We are startingto see that.
The recent progress would not be possible without the support of our community. The Downtown Mural Project is a great example. The project was led by FutureSSM and the Downtown Association and supported by several local businesses/organizations (OutSpoken Brewing, LopLops, J.Caroline’s, Fringe North International Theatre Festival and the Arts Council of Algoma), sponsors (Equipment World Sault Ste Marie, Color Your World/Cloverdale Paint, Kiwanis Club of Lakeshore, Batchewana First Nation, Village Media, Michaels Stores, Holiday Inn Express Sault Ste Marie, Days Inn & Suites and Bay Front Quality Inn and Suites) and artists (Jerry Rugg, Darren Emond, Alexander Bacon, Patrick Hunter, Rihkee Strapp and Mishiikenh Kwe).
The teamwork of these organizations, businesses and individuals resulted in a fun project that added five new murals to the downtown area. While progress is being made, it would be premature to conclude that our work is done, but it is important to recognize that by working together we are making a difference and if we keep at it we will continue to do so.
For a remarkable 13th consecutive year, cadets from 310 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps and 155 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Corps (including highland dancers from MacLeod Highland Dance Studio) finished first place at the Area Band and Drill Competition. It takes incredible amount of hard work and dedication to prepare for and succeed at these competitions, and their efforts deserve recognition.
The cadet program is an asset to our community. One of the primary goals is fostering good citizenship and leadership skills in a supportive atmosphere that helps to develop our community’s future leaders. This is accomplished through the hard work of the dedicated volunteers who support the cadet program and helped developed this atmosphere.
I have been fortunate to participate in many events involving the cadets, and I am always impressed with the maturity, confidence and energy they continue to exude. I look forward to seeing what they will accomplish in the future.
The City has a responsibility to support the movement of people throughout Sault Ste. Marie, whether it be to and from work, appointments, essential services or recreational options. Transit is one of the most important services the City provides, and staff is working hard to provide a service that meets the needs of users.
City Council received an update on Transit Services at Monday night’s meeting in the form of a report about an on demand transit one-year pilot. As a means of making the best use of our resources and better serving users, the City is seeking proposals to shift to an on demand model starting with a pilot for Sunday evenings this summer (an RFP will be issued in the near term).
A flag raising for Autism Awareness Month is held annually at the Civic Centre and each year you will see the photos appear in the local media and on social media, but I want to recognize the people behind the scenes who worked hard to organize the flag raising and who work even harder to support people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families.
The flag raising is organized by Autism Ontario’s Sault Ste. Marie Chapter, a tremendous group that helps spread awareness about ASD, facilitates social opportunities for individuals with ASD and their families and provides support to these individuals and their families. For example, they organize workshops, parent caregiver support group meetings and at a Baby Bumps and Beyond event this weekend they have arranged for a sensory room.
The withdrawal of NOHFC support for FutureSSM is a disappointing decision from the Provincial government, but it will not keep the project from moving forward and it should not overshadow the great work that is going on.
FutureSSM is a community development project that was developed through extensive consultation with the community.
We have come to accept and recognize that economic growth and development does not happen in isolation, rather it happens when you create a place people want to live in, when opportunity is more fairly shared and accessible and when there are vibrant spaces, places and experiences people can enjoy and share with one another. Simply put, we have to do more than just maintain the community we have, we need to build the community we want to become.