THUNDER BAY — The City of Thunder Bay is taking a fresh a look at how it can make the best use of available land to attract job-creating enterprises to the community.
It's budgeted $175,000 for a consultant to help prepare a new Employment Land Strategy.
Employment land is any land designated for industrial, commercial or institutional purposes, as opposed to property set aside for residential development.
"The purpose is to make sure that the City of Thunder Bay has an employment land supply that will give us a competitive advantage, and that we're able to respond to demand for that type of land use," says Leslie McEachern, director of planning services for the city.
In an interview with Tbnewswatch, McEachern noted that it has been many years since the city last did an industrial and commercial land supply study.
"It's time to update that to take a look at what current trends are, and to validate our supply to make sure we've got the right amount and the right locations and that sort of thing," she said.
It's also important, McEachern said, to find out if there's enough properly-serviced land, and access to large parcels rather than just fragmented, smaller parcels.
The city's briefing material for consultants who might be interested in the job singles out Innova Park for special attention.
Efforts to fill the business park east of the Thunder Bay Expressway near the Harbour Expressway have largely been frustrated since its inception in the late 1990s.
A handful of businesses have established there, but most of the fully-serviced, 71-acre business park remains vacant.
Current designated uses for Innova Park include light industry and offices.
"There's been pressure to develop that for uses other than what it's been set aside for. Pressure for commercial development and pressure to loosen the design standards," McEachern said.
The study will examine whether Innova Park is appropriately zoned and designated.
"The city's trying to be proactive in terms of ensuring we are able to respond to development pressures and demands, and take advantage of opportunities."
According to the RFP, the new strategy must include recommendations that:
- are achievable and cost-effective
- address anticipated needs for the next 30 years
- capitalize on already-serviced land
- address vacant and underutilized industrialized areas
- encourage downtown development
- facilitate business retention and expansion
- facilitate new business start-up and attraction
- address land use controls such as Official Plan designations, zoning, policy and regulations
The consultant is also expected to make recommendations about repurposing "obsolete harbour-dependent" employment land along the Thunder Bay waterfront for alternative uses.