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2012-04-10 at 15:32

LETTER: Marina Park property transfer recap

By Patty Bates
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As the City prepares to transfer Marina Park property to a private developer this week, a recap of the process is in order.

The plan has gradually evolved always favouring the developer, until this point where even the ever-supportive CJ buried the story of the land transfer with no hotel on page 12 (March 31, Waterfront deal close).

At the start, concerns were raised even among members of the Waterfront Development Committee in 2006, as to the wisdom of private development within the park. But the concept of “bringing more people into the park” received approval, with the inclusion of one hotel and two condos with ground floor commercial space, amid much public concern. Forgotten was the fact that the ISF funding required no private sector development.

To accommodate the land needs for private development, a shell game of infilling between the piers to create more public land began, using ISF dollars, while selling and leasing previous public and new land for private development. As each set of negotiations followed, the city gave up more of the park. This included allowing for no ground floor commercial in the condos, instead giving more prime waterfront land for the construction of a building beside the rink, and where the colourful lawn-chairs sit, for future commercial. 

Also given up was the historic CN Station, (which should have been the "centerpiece" of Prince Arthur's Landing) along with the restaurant and Model Train Exhibit and not to mention the ongoing legal expense to turf the Yacht Club, and break their lease. To replace the public space lost in the CN Station, the Baggage Building was expanded, costing far more than maintaining the CN Station.  Private development has been given all parking behind the hotel and condos, which sits over our main city water main, as well as significant parking in the boater parking area near the Caboose. The expanded area created in front of the CN Station has been named "Market Square parking", apparently to serve the future commercial area immediately beside it. Lost is the Waterfront plaza, between Market Square and the lake.

Public dollars have been spent to build the Water Garden Pavilion, which, while attractive, is a rather expensive washroom and place to put on skates, with hopes of renting out the remainder of this costly public building for a private four star restaurant. Remember, there was a restaurant and public bathrooms in the CN Station, so no public gain here, other than adding to our debt.

In addition to the recent approval to award the remaining Phase 1 work estimated at $3.2 million to the developer, Manshield without competitive tenders, the city has approved an operating budget of $600,100 to operate just the Prince Arthur's Landing area of Marina Park. And Administration has said since, that may not be enough. With closed door negotiations taking place one could wonder what else we have to give, and why, to secure a hotel.

The Developer will now be able to build the condos before the hotel, removing the incentive to ensure a hotel is ever built. Could allowing the transfer of the property title now enable the Developer to “flip” this property with financial gain? In the industry, if there are any concerns with a project being built, I have been told that title would not pass until a portion of the building was complete, or “substantial completion”. Has the city imposed any financial guarantees?

As the public has embraced winter enjoyment of the park, we should be concerned that more of the park could be lost, and public access and enjoyment diminished as more space is allocated for private development. We have spent $60 million of public money with not a lot we didn't have before other than a rink, new docks, art and a new bathroom to show for it, with the beacons being a blatant reminder of wasteful spending.

Perhaps if the private development couldn't proceed on the original conditions agreed to and made public, it was time to reclaim the vacant space for a use more beneficial to the citizens of Thunder Bay.

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tsb says:
Just another reminder that I chose the wrong city to be born into, and screwed myself over by not leaving. Thanks!
4/10/2012 6:08:03 PM
hockeyskates says:
Patty: Please run for Council next time. Not just on this issue, but because you are smart, great with numbers, and you care deeply about Thunder Bay.
4/10/2012 6:20:17 PM
commonsense says:
There are many examples to be found along L. Superior of development that COULD have been placed in the park, instead of private residences.

Grand Marais has the North Folk House, which offers courses year-round and attracts many visitors. Duluth has the Maritime museum which attracted 450,000 visitors in 2009 (I asked).
The Northern Great Lakes Visitor Centre in Ashland, WI offers classes, courses, public film viewings, houses gov't ministries,and shares the local Aboriginal, forestry, mining, and agricultural history.

Of concern is the impact private residences will have on park activities long-term. Will residents tolerate the noise of Canada Day, and the Blues Festival?

The city will pay $600,000 to maintain the Prince Arthur's Landing section of the park and must include the 2 security guards now sitting with little to do in the Water Garden Pavilion. And we (taxpayers) will provide all the free maintenance of the "grounds" of the private condos. Nice deal for them.
4/11/2012 10:14:04 AM
TBayFlash says:
It is a good letter. However, what also is worth mentioning is the Lake Superior Place grassroots project, which was rejected by council, was the real citizen-driven idea to develop the former Pool 6 Site of the waterfront at a total cost of $40 million. Also, the City of Thunder Bay is contributing one-third the cost to the project aside from the Federal and Provincial governments. So, an appetite for waterfront development became a mountain out of a moe-hill. I do support waterfront development; current development doesn't fully reflect the vision of Lake Superior Place that I would have liked to see.
4/11/2012 10:30:47 AM
newshound says:
Thank you Patty for that accurate events of our newly created Waterfront. I always knew it was a bad idea to allow condos and a hotel in the Marina.. Why cant the city of Thunder Bay realize, we live in the north, having a beautiful Marina and a small park area for families and children is all we need here. We live in a beautiful green space already!! We dont need to commercialize our Waterfront!!! We certainly do not need a Event Centre across the street from our Waterfront. Citizens of Thunder Bay wake up before its too late... We are a northern city, not Toronto or Vancouver... we pride ourselves on the beauty of our city, yet were letting a concrete jungle take over the Waterfront!! One day we will all see that our city council has made the biggest mistake and by then it will be too late... Speak up before we cant turn back!!!
4/11/2012 11:20:26 AM
TBDR says:
If the people of this city were all so negative, you would have seen massive changes to council in the last election. The only real "replacement" was the mayor who never communicated and was never visible. So clearly the people complaining here are not representative of general public opinion. I'd put money on it that if an agency conducted a poll today, there would still be overall support for the direction the city is going.
4/11/2012 11:21:52 AM
mysterybuff says:
The "no name" hotel is a fantasy. We have been hoodwinked and according to Councillor Roberto, incapable of participating in the democratic process. The "Father knows best" principle will continue with the "fantasy" multiplex!
4/11/2012 1:22:01 PM
commonsense says:
What is negative about the Letter? It tells the facts; how the city gave and gave, thinking "if we just give one more thing" maybe he'll bite. And Bova laughed all the way to the bank.
Had we sought out an architect with more imagination, we may have had something that would benefit the citizens more.
The Pavilion is not for us, it will be a private restaurant. All we got, was the bathrooms and skate change room.
And once all 6 private buildings are up (if "walk-away Joe"Bova decides this waterfront is too lucrative to walk away from)it will be a very crowded site. There is a lease for land for another private building beside rink, and another in front of that one.
Yeah, It all looks "shiny and new", but there's nothing new to do!!!
And the barricades around the rink, with a guard keeping people off the surface looks tacky.
Far more public oriented suggestions were ignored. We get to pay the mtce. costs, but not much new to do.
4/12/2012 10:03:29 PM
sprintfan says:
Now do you really think we can trust council enough to make the right decision on a multiplex location?
4/14/2012 6:17:03 PM
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