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Sears, Giant Tiger renos among biggest May building permits

Cushman and Wakefield, property manager at Station Mall, said nothing about ongoing work at the former Sears store during a meeting this week of the Station Mall Merchants Association. Mall tenants believe a major announcement could be made later this month

After last year's all-time record of $259 million, 2023's construction activity in Sault Ste. Marie has so far been unexceptional.

The 152 building permits issued in May were worth a total of $17 million, compared to 143 permits worth $26.2 million in May 2022.

As for year-to-date statistics, 378 permits have been issued so far this year, with a total value of $51.3 million. That compares to 347 permits valued at $115.5 million at the same time last year.

Algoma Steel's electric arc conversion continued to lead local building statistics in May, with a $5-million permit for a new auxiliary facility – a fume treatment plant.

The second-largest building permit issued in May was $4 million for the City of Sault Ste. Marie's new entrance plaza at the Ronald A. Irwin Civic Centre.

The month's third-biggest permit was for a single, $1.5-million house on Sunnyside Beach Road, with two storeys, attached garage, heated crawlspace and rear deck.

This time last month, SooToday broke the news of a second Giant Tiger store to be built in an existing vacant commercial property at 275 Second Line West.

Since then, another $850,000 permit was obtained for tenant fit-out work at the new Giant Tiger.

Also very much in the news in recent weeks is the former Sears store at Station Mall.

As SooToday's Alex Flood reported last week, a lot of work is visible in an adjacent blocked-off section of the mall parking lot, with Station Mall's Facebook page boasting "big changes are underway."

Cushman and Wakefield, an international firm providing real estate services, has been the property manager at Station Mall for almost one year.

The company said nothing about the ongoing Sears renovations at a meeting this week of the Station Mall Merchants Association, but tenants are expecting an announcement soon, possibly later this month.

The Sears work showed up on the city's May building permit list, with a $700,000 permit for removal and replacement of the store roof.

Other building permits issued last month included $291,960 in interior renovations for a new retail bakery at Churchill Plaza, and $80,000 in changes to the banquet hall at the venerable Sandro's Family Restaurant at 465 Trunk Road.

May's construction value broke down like this:

  • commercial: nine permits valued at $6.1 million
  • industrial: three permits totalling $5.2 million
  • residential: 140 permits totalling $5.7 million

Last year, local building activity reached an all-time record of $259 million, boosted by major projects at Algoma Steel and Tenaris.

In 2021, Sault Ste. Marie issued $211.4 million worth of building permits, more than any of the previous dozen years and easily twice the construction value of any of the previous five years.

During the 12-year period from 2009 to 2020, the busiest years were 2011 ($165.7 million), 2010 ($143.3 million) and 2009 ($123.7 million).

1989 was another big year with a then-record of $211.2 million worth of new buildings including the Ontario Lottery Corp. offices ($46 million), the Northern Treatment Centre ($15 million) and what is now the Ontario Forest Research Institute ($19.5 million.)

Before 2022, the Sault's previous building-boom record was in 2007, with $231 million in permits issued including the new Sault Area Hospital.

During the 45 years from 1976 to 2021, the average value of building permits issued was $82.2 million.

The poorest year for local construction over that period was 1983, with just $32.4 million in permits.

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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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