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Contract awarded for new $16-million office building one block from downtown plaza

New build won't cost taxpayers any more than they're already paying for real estate

A $25-million building boom is about to commence near both sides of the 500 block of Queen Street East.

The construction company that built Algoma University's Spirit Village residence nine years ago has won a $16.3-million contract to erect a new consolidated headquarters building for District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board (DSSMSSAB).

The new structure will rise at 540 Albert St. E., just one block from the  $8.4-million downtown plaza approved by City Council last month.

The Albert Street job has been awarded to Matheson Constructors Ltd. of Aurora, Ont., which submitted the lowest of four bids.

Unsuccessful bidders were:

  • Ruscio Masonry & Construction (SSM) – $19.3 million
  • SalDan Construction Group (SSM) – $17.4 million
  • Praztek Construction Group (Timmins) – $16.6 million

Matheson's current projects include an office building at 104 Beech St. in Sudbury and a residential complex on Park Street in Little Current.

The company maintains a Northern Ontario office at 531 Notre Dame Ave. in Sudbury.

Past builds claimed by Matheson include:

  • North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit
  • Sudbury’s first Starbucks drive-through location, a 2,500-square-foot standalone building near the corner of Barrydowne and Kingsway
  • Sudbury biosolids management and wastewater treatment plant
  • Constance Lake First Nation Water Treatment Plant
  • 20,000-square-foot Jack Garland Airport Terminal in North Bay

In awarding the Albert Street contract at a special board meeting, Sault Ste. Marie Housing Corp. decided to finance the project with $13.9 million in TD financing at rate of 3.12 per cent.

DSSMSSAB first started looking at consolidating its three local offices into one location in 2016.

A 2020 calculation determined between $138,000 and $208,000 a year could be saved by moving all operations to a single building for one-stop service.

Locations considered included Gore Street, Albert Street, Queen Street and two locations on Bay Street.

That list was eventually pared down to 540 Albert St. and one of the Bay Street locations.

The Albert Street site was the final choice.

Its advantages included current city ownership of the site.

No other viable alternative was found downtown and the DSSMSSAB board was determined to keep staff downtown, home to 52 per cent of Social Services clients.

Abandoning Albert Street for Bay was seen as creating vacant office space for both the city and its downtown.

A study done in 2020 found that it would be more expensive to renovate 540 Albert St. than to erect a new building.

The original idea was to demolish the existing building immediately but the city signed a 10-year lease in 2019 for a Public Health Ontario lab.

The current plan is to keep the existing building in place until the end of that lease, possibly seeking an additional tenant.

The new building will be built next to the older structure.

DSSMSSAB chair Luke Dufour said the new build won't cost taxpayers any more than they're already paying for real estate for Social Services buildings.

The new building will offer safe storage in the basement for employee bicycles, as well as showers for staff who like to exercise during lunch hours.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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