THUNDER BAY - The waterfront in downtown Thunder Bay may see even more expansions in the years to come, including the new location for the Thunder Bay Art Gallery and a transportation museum.
On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced $5 million in funding through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation’s Strategic Economic Infrastructure Program for the a new Thunder Bay Art Gallery on the waterfront.
An additional $1 million was announced for the city of Thunder Bay for waterfront redevelopment at Prince Arthur’s Landing to prepare the site for the new art gallery and expand the Sleeping Giant Parkway, as well as $150,000 to the Lakehead Transportation Museum Society to help transform the Alexander Henry into an interactive transportation museum.
“We are building on the amazing success story that is Thunder Bay’s waterfront,” Wynne said. “I’ve seen the changes that have happened. It is quite remarkable.”
“We live in a period of rapid change,” Wynne continued. “In an uncertain time, it’s very important that government have a plan to confront that uncertainty. Part of that plan is investing in communities. Thunder Bay getting some support through the NOHFC to make sure your community can thrive, that is exactly what government is positioned to do.”
When asked if the province can afford a $5 million investment for an art gallery, Wynne responded by asking if the government can afford not to invest in communities.
“This is about history, it’s about art, and it’s about the culture of the city but it’s also about the economy,” she said. “The economy includes all of that.”
Sharon Godwin, director of the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, said the funding was a big step toward raising the money that is needed to bring the new art gallery to life on the waterfront.
“Right now we have the support of the city and the province and we have applied to the federal government and we hope to hear in the near future that we will have some support from them as well,” she said.
Godwin added the entire project is estimated to cost approximately $30 million. The city has already committed $5 million and the gallery launched a fundraising campaign to raise an additional $2.5 million. Godwin said she is hoping to see the gallery open by 2021.
“We are sure the confirmation of this funding will help move the project ahead, it will positively affect the federal requests we have out there, and I know it’s going to help those people who want to give to our gallery and our community feel a real level of comfort doing that, that we are moving ahead,” Godwin said.
Lakehead Transportation Museum Society president, Charlie Brown, said the group is very thankful for the funding, which he said will help convert the icebreaker, Alexander Henry, which was built at the Port Arthur Shipyard and entered service in 1959, into a museum ship.
“We have such a transportation history here,” Brown said. “The Lakehead Transportation Museum Society is all about preserving that history, not only for this generation, but for generations to come.”
Brown added the Alexander Henry is expected to be opened in May of this year and host tours and events, with some rooms in the ship being converted to mini-museums. Brown hopes the Alexander Henry at the Pool 6 site will become the centre piece of a transportation museum that could include the Brill Buses and the Whalen Tug.
“These projects are about building a waterfront that connects the past and the present,” Wynne said.