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Urban indigenous hub, housing development planned for Gateway site (2:50 p.m. update)

$40 million initial investment. 120 housing units
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Mayor Christian Provenzano is briefing news media at this hour on an urban Indigenous hub, and housing development planned for the Gateway site.

Initial investment in the project will be $40 million.

One hundred and 20 units of mixed housing are planned.

City Council will be asked Monday to sign a memorandum of understanding for the inititiative.

Up to $60 million more development could eventually be added to the $40 million initial investment, bringing the total value of the project to $100 million.

The new buildings would be immediately adjacent to the existing Mill Market farmers’ market.

Key partners in the project will be Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services, Waabinong Head Start Family Resource Centre, Neech-keWehn Homes Inc., Niwaakai'gananaanind Aboriginal Housing, and Sault Ste. Marie Indigenous Friendship Centre of Sault Ste. Marie.

It will be necessary to complete an environmental remediation of the site for “sensitive uses.”

Mixed housing is planned for the site, ranging from affordable to rent-geared-to-income and potential home/condominium ownership.

The development is to include an urban indigenous friendship centre, childcare facility, cultural/green space that will be open to the public and an indoor/outdoor indigenous interpretation centre.

The development is considered necessary because almost 1,200 households are on the local housing waitlist, and Sault Ste. Marie has more than 100 individuals experiencing homelessness.

As for child care, the waitlist is currently 61 children, with just 48 spaces in the downtown program.

The public green/cultural space will be located on a three-acre parcel of land east of Fort Creek, which divides the property.

The buildings will all be west of Fort Creek.

The long-dormant Gateway site was selected for the project because of:

  •     cultural and historical significance
  •     alignment with the city’s 2016 downtown strategy and corporate strategic plan
  •     good transit routes
  •     close to banking, shopping, restaurants and medical services
  •     green space for cultural activities
  •     large enough to have on-site programming available
  •     easy to get to Sault College, Algoma University for additional programming and training activities

The memorandum of understanding to be presented to City Council on Monday calls for the city to transfer the Gateway site to the Bawating Urban Indigenous Committee, and to develop additional partnerships to better serve both indigenous people and the community at large.

“Negotiations of the conditional transfer will be undertaken in good faith and will take into consideration the current appraised value of the property,” the draft document states.

“The appraisal will be done by a professional appraisal service, costs of which will be borne by the city. The environmental condition of the property will also need to be discussed and in particular the costs associated with addressing the conditions to accommodate the development.”

“Discussion will also include the residential/commercial taxes arising from the increased property value assessment,” the proposed memorandum of understanding says.

“It’s a really impressive proposal for the Gateway site,” Mayor Christian Provenzano told reporters at a briefing this afternoon.

“The consortium that’s with us today is a group of local leaders who have a development proposal for the Gateway site. They brought that development proposal to City Hall. Senior staff, including myself, worked with the team to look at the proposal. We’re at a place now where we’re going to council and asking council to enter into a memorandum of understanding,” the mayor said.

“It’s four partners that have come together,” said Justin Marchand, executive director of Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services.

“What we saw was the need for an urban aboriginal community hub and…affordable housing, market housing in Sault Ste. Marie,” Marchand said.

Monday’s City Council meeting will be livestreamed on SooToday starting at 4:30 p.m.




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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

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