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Residential rehab site is not finalized, but negotiations ongoing

Preferred location is former Sault Star building on Old Garden River Road

Speculation that Sault Ste. Marie's long-awaited residential withdrawal management centre will be on Old Garden River Road is premature, sources close to the negotiations tell SooToday.

But the Ontario government, which is providing $343,000 in ongoing operational funding to the 20-bed residential rehab, has signaled to local officials in recent weeks that the old Sault Star site at 145 Old Garden River Rd. is its preferred location.

That property is privately owned.

Its owner, Fausto DiTommaso, is currently in lease negotiations with Sault Area Hospital, our sources say.

Aside from the need to buy or lease the former newspaper site, another potential wrinkle is that the property isn't properly zoned for its intended rehab use, so City Council must approve any rezoning applications.

The 30,000-square-foot building, erected in the late 1970s, was sold by Postmedia in 2017 to DiTommaso Investments.

Postmedia leased the property back to The Star, which left the building last November after eight months of working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sault Area Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Wendy Hansson said last month that the hospital needs another location for its residential withdrawal management services because of COVID-19, capacity and space issues.

Only the former Sault Star site met all criteria set for the new community-based addictions services centre.

In announcing operating funds for the withdrawal management centre, Sault MPP Ross Romano said last month that the new site should be operating within eight to 12 months.