Big Spaces Need Big Ideas


Driving around Sault Ste. Marie, you can’t help but notice several large vacant buildings and spaces sitting empty. Some are for sale, some are for lease, others they just seem to be “there”.

It’s not unlike any other City. Buildings that were once vibrant and provided the adequate space that occupied it whether it be educational, retail or industrial now sit empty, waiting for its next use.

Here’s just a few of the larger spaces waiting for a new life. So we thought we would have some fun and try to come up with new uses for these major buildings and properties

Wellington Street – Former Sir James Dunn High School


Once the proud home of the Eagle’s , Roberta Bondar and Wayne Gretzky this end end school has seen better days.  We’re not sure what the long term plans the ADSB has for it, though it has been used for storage and a temporary space for the Christmas Cheer Depot in the past.

This location could be used for many things if re-purposed. An apartment complex would likely fit in okay or perhaps additional dorm space for neighbouring Algoma University.

Industrial Park – Former Black Loon Building














This place once produced quality wood work products like tables and cutting boards. The place is huge and could be home to many industrial type operations.

What We’re Hearing

This property is currently up for sale and we have heard a rumour that it is being looked at for a Federal Marijuana Gro-Op location. This has not been confirmed but it is what we have heard on the location. It’s been empty now for quite a few years.

Great Northern Road – Former Honda Dealership


This building has been used for a Honda Dealership since the 1980’s  – the dealership  bought and moved into the former Boston’s Motors place on Pim St. earlier this year.  We hear that there’s apartments up above too.  Being on the Golden Mile, there is no end to the uses of this property from retail to dining. The building was currently sold.

What We’re Hearing

Another restaurant coming to town? We have heard that the location could be home to a Montana’s Restaurant. It would make a good fit with two large Hotel chains that have recently built in the area, and of course right where the Big Box stores are.


Great Northern Road – Former Husky location


Another prime spot on one of the busiest streets in the city. The Husky North was once a popular stop over for many travelers and locals alike. It closed its doors last year and boarded up. We haven’t heard anything on this property but its location could be anything  from office to retail .  The property isn’t all that big, so perhaps small retail or another restaurant?  It is located near the big box stores so the retail traffic is there.

Northern Avenue – Former K-Mart / Zellers


This iconic location was once a major hub for residents with one of its first department stores, K-Mart. For decades shoppers took in the K-Mart specials and how about that monkey?  The store eventually became another Zellers outlet until just a few years ago when it shut its doors.  There’s been some rumblings of it becoming a Target store as the U.S. based chain continues its push into the Canadian market. However with that move not going so well for Target Canada – don’t expect it to become a Sault Target store anytime soon.

What Could It Be Used For?   

Remember Putter’s Park in the K-Mart plaza? wouldn’t this be a cool location to build a new one? People like to golf or putter if you will, but living in Northern Ontario that only gives you a five month season. Wouldn’t a bigger Putter’s Park be cool?

It was always a “must -go -to” place for birthday parties and other celebrations.  Expect to drop a few million to transform the location though.

Great Northern Road – McNabb – Former Burger King location


This was one of the Sault’s first fast food places when they started to spring up in the 70’s.  The Burger place recently closed leaving one of the prime properties on the Golden Mile available for many other uses. Another fast food place would probably be the ideal candidate for the busy location, it is one of the busiest intersections in the city.

What It Could Be Used For

Perhaps a smaller type of highrise apartments?  There’s incentives for developers to construct new apartment buildings, this could be an opportunity for someone. With a major mall, parks and grocery stores near by, could make a perfect place for urban living.

Bay Street – Former Northern Breweries


At one time this historic building housed Doran’s, a popular brand with locals that became Northern Breweries – one of the first employee owned breweries in North America. Unfortunately the beer business became much too competitive  for locally owned breweries to compete and the place shut down about 6 years ago. Since then there was a pie in the sky developer who wanted to build the tallest skyscraper in Northern Ontario. A 40 floor corkscrew type of tower. It never really materialized other than conceptual drawings.  Today, the building is back up for sale, but will need to be demolished – somewhat of a deterrent with a cost of $1 million plus, including unpaid taxes and the asking price of about $450,000 .

What it could be used for

The condo / office tower idea was a good one. With the push of more residential and office space for the downtown area. Perhaps another developer will have the same idea planted with more realistic ideas.  Outside of that, green space is always nice.

Queen Street – Former Woolco Department Store


This downtown location has been re-purposed for many things since Woolco closed in the mid 1980’s . Once a major anchor for downtown, the department store was one of the biggest before the Station Mall was built in the early 1970’s. There was talk once of building pedestrian bridge over Bay Street to connect the store with the mall, but it never moved forward.

The building was also considered for the casino development. The owner of the building at the time wanted to transform the location into the city’s and OLG’s charity casino – a grand plan and one that would have probably boosted the downtown area. Instead a temporary now permanent location was sought near the bridge plaza to attract the Americans to the casino.

What it could be used for 

It’s a huge building, with underground parking accessible from Bay street and Queen Street. It cries out for a new high level bar or night club. Something more of a destination stop. A first class bar featuring live entertainment and competing against the bars across the river. Something like that however will cost millions of dollars so you will need deep pockets to do anything like that.


Queen Street – Former PUC Building


Now that the Sault Ste. Marie PUC has moved to its new big and beautiful building on Second Line, the business office on Queen could make for a great opportunity for some developers. It’s a fairly big building and it is up for sale, about $1.6 million

What It Could Be Used For

The location itself is a good one, along the city’s main strip but with vacant office space in the downtown , it will take a big corporation or a bunch of smaller offices to fill the place. Another idea is to demo it, buy the property beside it and think residential highrise apartments or condos. Though with the former hospital site becoming waterfront condos, there might be too much of a good thing.

Trunk Road – Former Roller Skating Rink and Liquidation World


When Roller Skating was the big craze in the 80’s this building was constructed to house one of two roller skating rinks in the city. It was a popular pass time for about 5 years. Since then the space was used for discount retailer, Liquidation World.

What It Could Be Used For

Certainly big enough for an outlet store, a major restaurant or again, ideal location for new residential apartments. Maybe bring back a roller skating rink? or could it be used for a sound stage for the many film projects that roll into town. Maybe its time the city invests in its own studio space to rent out to the film companies?  Just a thought.

Trunk Road – Former Pino’s Get Fresh


When Ben Pino built his new super store next door to his old location, there was talk of a new Shopper’s drug mart occupying the space. Not sure if that’s still a plan, we hear it’s not.

What It Could Be Used For

The most logical use for this building would be a grocery store – but with three grocery stores along Trunk Road, that likely wouldn’t be a good idea. The building is still owned by Ben Pino. Make an offer if you have an idea for the space. Maybe Tim Horton’s could use it. Currently located next door, Tim Horton’s is a constant beehive of activity, perhaps a larger location would work?  Make it the biggest Tim Horton’s in the world.

Do you have ideas?

Okay, so there you have it. You probably have your own ideas for these buildings, or what you would like to see done with them.  We only scratched the surface because there’s plenty of  other vacant locations in town and vacant property, for example the strip of property at Second Line and Great Northern Road was once earmarked for a shopping plaza. It still remains  unused and it’s prime property. There are empty old schools that could be used and transformed into low rental apartments. The ideas are endless.












  1. If some of the building could be saved I would like to see Northern Breweries turned into something along the lines of what was done with Tannery Building in Kitchener. There are also some examples of conversions Hamilton. A mixed use coworking space focused on small business, entrepreneurship and programming around education, community space, etc would be a bit risky and could likely fail but if it worked it would have a big upside.

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