City Council voted unanimously in favour of a memorandum of understanding to kick off the process needed to move forward with the Bawating Urban Indigenous Hub.
This MOU, Don McConnell, Director of Planning and Enterprise Services for the city, said, is just one step in what may be a five-step process, which will take approx. two years to complete.
Justin Marchand, Executive Director of the Ontario Aboriginal Housing Service – one of the several partners involved in the project (others include Sault Ste. Marie Indigenous Friendship Centre, Waabinong Head Start Family Resource Centre, Neech-ke-When Homes Inc and Niwaakai’iganaanind Aboriginal Housing), said he hopes to see shovels hit the dirt by 2021, providing they can get acquisition to the 13-acre Gateway site, which is historically significant to the development group, as it’s near the site of the signing of the Robinson-Superior Treaty and the Robinson-Huron Treaties.
Prior to the Q&A, Mayor Provenzano addressed council to shed light on some mistruths going around social media in regards to this project.
“This development is not simply a low-income, residential development. It’s high-density residential with market and non-market units, commercial space, cultural space and public park space. It is consistent with previous proposals, approved by previous councils for the same site,” he explained, also adding that it’s not just for Indigenous people, but anyone in need of housing.
“The City is not paying for this project; we’re financing it. When parties approach the City, (they) often have some kind of request for financial support. This group of people here tonight did not have an ask of the City, beyond the City working with them in a repectful manner as a good faith partner and helping them realize their vision,” he continued.
“The development is not tax free,” he said, explaining that it will be subject to the City’s realty taxes.
Couns. Paul Christian, Marchy Bruni, and Corey Gardi expressed their support and excitement for this project, with Christian also mentioning to the committee to keep in mind that the development needs to be accessible to all.
“This shows the leadership of the city in the truth and reconciliation process,” Gardi said. “I’m excited by the beginning of this project and I look much more forward to the end.”
This MOU is the first step in the process, leading to community consultation on what the project should look like, and launching the engineering and design process. An environmental assessment on the property and any land remediation are next on the docket as well.
This $40 million project also has the potential to expand in the future, with a price tag of an additional $60 million.