When Sault Ste. Marie City Council gathers for their next meeting, Aug. 28, the fate of the Queen Street Improvement proposal will likely top the agenda.
The original concept from city staff remains on the table. Council could approve that proposal in its entirety, with the $18 million price tag accepted or it could opt to approve part of the plan, at a cost of $6 million, with second and third stages to follow after an assessment of stage one and Downtown Association Chair Nick Rosset says while agreement on how to proceed has been elusive to this point, the City, downtown merchants and owners and the public have had opportunity to make their points and adds he’d like to see the proposal, in stages or otherwise, proceed.
“I feel like the city has done a lot of due diligence communicating with the public, the Downtown Association and its membership,” says Rosset. “I don’t think you’re ever going to get 100 per cent agreement with a project of this scale. I think the general consensus is the streetscape is dated and tired. A more modern Queen Street would be a more desirable place for people to enjoy their personal time to go shopping and to use as a public space especially with the new plaza that’s coming.”
Rosset says when it comes to updating the city’s main street, the City and the DTA are essentially on the same page.
“Through different lenses the objectives can be quite different,” offered Rosset. “The private businesses are there to service the community and earn money but that goes hand in hand with the city’s goal of trying to make the whole downtown a safe and enjoyable place. I think our goals are more aligned than it might be perceived. Just sometimes, we’re approaching from different angles but we’re all trying to get to the same place.”
Rosset understands there are calls for a larger scope project, with more bells and more whistles. But he stresses the city has addressed practical improvements – accessibility, new lighting – that make for a better downtown for merchants and the public. “We need it to be user-friendly” he said. “Signage, lighting and accessibility for those who have accessibility needs. We hear it all the time. Parking and curbs. Those barriers are a deterrent for people to come and shop at our businesses. It’s an opportunity to service those customers who maybe, currently, can’t come to our businesses.”
Queen Street was last resurfaced was in 1979. New boulevards, curbs and sidewalks were also part of that upgrade.
Street Party starts at 5, today
The second downtown street party of the summer gets underway at 5 p.m. today and goes until 11 p.m.
Queen Street will be closed from Pim to Dennis streets for the six-hour summer celebration. “We’re super excited to have OLF sponsoring our March Street stage,” says Kim Skagen, co-ordinator. “We have Bookclub playing. It’s rock music and pop from the ‘70s to now. We have Generations, which also has a great mix of rock.
Generations hits the stage at 5:30 and will perform until 8 p.m. Bookclub immediately follows and plays until 11 p.m. Entomica will be on hand with their exotic bug displays. Activities include giant board games, face painting and henna tattoos.
Peace Restaurant and Tazzi’s Cafe and Restaurant will offer drinks on their licensed patios on separate blocks. Peace is holding their Thursday Music and Margs with Matthew James performing form 7-9 pm. Soo Blaster is serving drinks from Elgin to Bruce. In addition, more than 20 food vendors are joining in the fun.
“Community members just seem to come out of the woodwork and it’s really nice to see everybody out together and having a good time.
The downtown fun doesn’t end with today’s party. A sidewalk sale is slated for Sept. 9, and another street party is planned for Sept. 29 to coincide with the Soo Greyhounds’ season and home opener, vs. the Flint Firebirds.
Skagen says an October highlight will be Halloween On Queen, with a “full road closure this year and lots of excitement.”