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Drawings of part of a $13.2 million project geared towards revitalizing Downtown Port Arthur (City of Thunder Bay)

Council writes $13M cheque for downtown overhaul

By Adam Riley Apr 6, 2023 | 4:30 AM

It’s a go.

Thunder Bay city council has approved what is being dubbed as a “once in a generation” infrastructure project that will completely overhaul the downtown Port Arthur area.

The contract valued at $13,2 million has gone to Nadin Contracting and will see sections of Court Street and all of Red River Road from Court to Cumberland revitalized.

The part of the reason for the hefty price tag is due to the need to tear out the century old infrastructure under the street and replace some of it with a new brick roadway which as engineering documents show will include a river like pattern.

An earlier version of the project had the price tag set at just over $11 million however Engineering and Operations Manager Kayla Dixon says while council is approving $13.2 million, the city will get an HST rebate, which will bring the cost down to $11.7 million.

Some on council questioned if city staff were able to provide a metric for investment to economic return, as many hope and believe the investment will breath new life into the area.

Engineering and Operations Director Kayla Dixon says not at this current time however it could be used down the line.

“It is something that we will be tracking for the FedNor and NOHFC applicaitons, so if we are successful looking at vacancy rates along these streets and use of patios along the right of way and events that are scheduled.”

If funding through higher levels of government is approved, it could mean city coffers would have to pay for less of the project, which Dixon notes could bring the price tag down to

Representatives from the Waterfront District BIA expressed their excitement and support for the project, despite the fact that for the next couple of years access to the downtown core and its businesses will be tricky.

But Vice Chair Peter White believes the multi generational project will pay off in a big way for the area.

“In the fullness of time I think you will realize this investment will be recouped multiple times, we have opportunities of synergism right now that have been unparalleled in our past.”

Drawings of part of a $13.2 million project geared towards revitalizing Downtown Port Arthur (City of Thunder Bay)

An interesting element of the project involved the brick work that will take on the shape of a river along Red River Road, this peaked the interests of some, as while only sand will be used during the winter months for traction on the roadway, salt used on higher areas of Red River Road would end up  flowing down through runoff.

“I drove by the Delta hotel there, and I saw that all their little front lock stone area, spalling, all the tops of the paving stones coming off, maybe four years old, “explained Red River Councillor Michael Zussino. “We talked earlier about warranties, what if that happens three or four years in, what’s the recourse?”

Dixon says a situation like that is something the city is aware of but notes the bricks being acquired for this project are designed for roads and have a higher tolerance for salt not directly applied to the surface.

Snow clearing will also be a change for the brickwork area, as a regular snowplow could damage the bricks, as such a special plastic blade will be used along with at least one new full time position to maintain the area in the winter.

One of the final pushes of support for the project came from Current River Councillor Andrew Foulds, who asked council to consider the impact the project would have on the city, in addition to the other projects, both completed and under development in the area.

“Imagine the new Pool 6 grounds, imagine the art gallery, imagine Prince Arthur’s Landing and imagine a revitalized downtown. Now that is what I’m talking about, lets get it done.”

Construction on the Court Street section of the project is expected to begin next month beginning at the intersection of Lincoln and Court.

The rest, which involves the Red River Road area is expected to start next year, but if conditions are favourable, there is a possibility of that work beginning this year.


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