Letter from Province may put Downtown Plaza Project on ice

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Civic Plaza

With many councillors concerned about the ever-increasing price tag of the downtown Civic Plaza, the future of the project may now be in jeopardy.

After providing millions of dollars towards the twin-pad arena project, the province, through NOHFC, has decided not to provide the $2 million in funding many councillors were betting on to help push the project ahead.

 

 

“Your application has been carefully reviewed by the NOHFC Board of Directors and it has been determined that the project is declined because many of the project’s proposed recreational amenities are already available nearby in the community,” says a portion of the letter to city staff.

 

During the May 10, 2021 council meeting, multiple councillors were concerned about the cost of the plaza even if NOHFC were to come through with the funding.

“In terms of cost, I think any higher and I would struggle to support it. Even at this cost, I would say I’m struggling to support it. I do understand the need and the purpose for a downtown Plaza. I think it’s great to avoid having to shut down the road for example. It’s great that we’ve been able to clean up some derelict buildings in the area, but at some point, we’re gonna have to draw the line on costs. We’re at that point,” said Councillor Shoemaker.


“While I’ll hesitate to support it at this point, if any of the proposed funding doesn’t come through, I don’t think I will hesitate not to support it.” – Councillor Shoemaker


Councillor Vezeau-Allen also supported the current $8.4 million dollar proposal, however with a caveat, which was getting the NOHFC funding.

“I do support this project. I think a vibrant downtown is a really huge attractor, especially in terms of newcomers as well as providing access and free activities for all of our age groups,” said Vezeau-Allen. “My only comment to Mr. Rivera would be that if the NOHFC funding does not come through, then I think we need to re-examine this project in terms of how we can scale it back. If we’re not getting that full amount.”

The problem with scaling it back is that, according to city staff, the $8.4 million dollar price tag represented the project already scaled back to the bare bones. Tom Vair, the City’s Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, confirmed the full project would have been over $10 million and that they were already looking at the bare bones options in this moment.

Councillor Rick Niro had concerns similar to those of Vezeau-Allen and Shoemaker.


“I still support this plaza. But, I think without that 2 million in NOHFC [funding], I think we really need to look at what comes back before we go any further. So, those are my concerns. Mr. Mayor.”  Rick Niro.

 
Mayor Provenzano, a long supporter of this project, also was concerned about the price tag. In stark contrast to his stance on the downtown bus terminal, he opined in May that this project needs to go forward.

“I think that the project that’s before you is the project that we need to do, if we’re going to do a project… and I think it’s important that we do a project. We have a number of private sector business owners and property owners that are making very significant investments in our downtown — million dollar investments, multi-million dollar investments, and I would suggest that we have to lead and show that we’re willing to do the same.” said Provenzano.

Given another opportunity to make an investment in the downtown, in terms of the bus terminal, Mayor Provenzano chose to vote against leaving it in the downtown core, relocating it to the west side of Huron Street, which, even by the city’s definition isn’t considered to be downtown.

“I appreciate Council’s concern about the price tag and the price tag growing. I share those concerns but I still think the price tag, what it is currently at, it is an important project and we should move forward with it as a demonstration of our own confidence in our community and our downtown,” Provenzano told council.


“We will work aggressively to hopefully earn NOHFC support, we get that support, we will move ahead immediately. And if we don’t get that support, we’ll have to revisit this and we will, as a group, make a decision at that time.”- Mayor Provenzano

 

The proposal is already encroaching on future council’s growth projects and as the City keeps reminding taxpayers, there are other potential expenditures to consider such as a future fire hall ($6 million) and other capital projects on the horizon. 

Will councillors choose to be fiscally responsible and not hamstring future City councils with this project?

Will they scrap segments of the already bare bones project to try and save some sort of plan?

Should they just scrap the whole plan completely and save the land for future development of a police station or fire hall?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

 

This is a copy of the funding rejection letter included in the city’s agenda for August 9, 2021

 

20 COMMENTS

  1. I for one am growing very tired of the callous disregard that the high level bureaucracy has for not only public opinion but the public interest as well. It seems that we have a council that lacks the wherewithal (or spine) to keep this bureaucracy in check. Tom Vair and his merry band of tax and spenders will leave no stone unturned in order to make up the shortfall in funding to complete their vanity project. A project that the majority of voters are against. Instead of spending 9 million dollars on an ill fated project that will in short time be over-run by homeless junkies and panhandlers, perhaps council could put the money to better use by condemning and demolishing the vast swath of derelict properties in the central corridors or Albert and Wellington. Better yet, council should allocate the money in order to stave off the massive property tax hikes homeowners will be faced with due to rocketing home assessments. It is time for a change! Every council member needs to be voted out in the next municipal election and replaced by those who will do the bidding of the voting tax payers of this community/

  2. Hey jim, you were pretty quick to ask ram guy if he just got back from Mars when he asks the mayor to provide a list of businesses who have provided multi-million dollar investments. It looks like ram guy read the article because Provenzano is quoted as saying “…. We have a number of private sector business owners and property owners that are making very significant investments in our downtown — million dollar investments, multi-million dollar investments …. “. Maybe you could read the article again Jim, and then tell ram guy which million dollar investments Tenaris and Algoma Steel have made in our downtown. Or do you think their operations are downtown?

    • Point taken but ram guy didn’t specify he was talking about the mayor’s comment.
      Having said that, there is the new drugstore at Bruce and Queen. I’ve noticed other new businesses in my walks and travels in the downtown. Obviously private investments.
      So there are attempts being made. Ridiculous lockdowns haven’t helped in more of similar investments.

    • The schools in the downtown closed as the population aged or moved elsewhere year’s ago.
      There may be more children in the area now but likely not enough to reopen an old school or build a new one.
      There was a grocery store downtown but rampant theft forced it to close. Open your own store and tell us how things go.

  3. Anyone want to bet that shortly after the bus terminal is moved that one of the “friends” of Provenzano will suddenly decide to buy the transit terminal property for a reasonable price?

  4. The downtown needs this plaza. Taxpayers deserve it. This city needs to move forward. Not everything can be for low income and addictions. We pay taxes as well.

    • The plaza is a major waste of our money. It is not needed now and it will never be needed.
      Many of its components are already in place within minutes of this location.
      The taxpayer dollars put toward this folly would be better spent upgrading or expanding other amenities of this type around the city.

  5. As I’ve said in previous comments, our current mayor and council has already demonstrated numerous times that it doesn’t matter what the voter base wants or doesn’t want, mayor and council will push thru what THEY want. Public be damned.

  6. Many will see this as good news. It is strange that en entire city council could not see that this venture was a duplication of services already available. Let’s make more and better use of the BONDAR area and scrap the new plaza idea. Afterall..BONDAR is in the downtown area.

  7. The mayor is quite the spendthrift. Its like he has an open checkbook with no limits to buy whatever he wants when he wants. Things are getting out of hand with this mayor.

Comments are closed.