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$21 million project will help keep Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario trades busy

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by Elaine Della-mattia

A large new construction project that has been recently announced in Sault Ste. Marie will help the local construction industry stabilize its workforce.

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A large new construction project that has been recently announced in Sault Ste. Marie will help the local construction industry stabilize its workforce.

The Sault Ste. Marie Public Utilities Commission is moving forward in its quest to consolidate its offices and build new digs for the city-owned corporation.

“It’s a great thing,” said Sault Ste. Marie Construction Association manager Rick Thomas. “This is great for the city and it’s great for our industry.”

The city-owned organization won approval recently to build a new 92,549-square-foot building estimated to cost $20.5 million on a site adjacent to one of its current premises at the north end of the city.

Plans call for the facility to be completed and operational by 2012.

Thomas said that while institutional and industrial work in the city has been plentiful, commercial projects, until very recently have been down.

The planning of this project, and several others that have shovels in the ground this spring, including a 50,000 sq. ft. addition to Wal-Mart, a new credit union and a new hotel, will keep construction association members employed and busy, he said.

What’s even more important to Thomas is that other projects are in initial planning stages and won’t see groundbreaking for another one or two years, providing stability for all trades, he said.

“That keeps our workforces trained and stable and they know that there is going to be work out there for the coming years,” he said.

“That’s very important to the construction industry and it’s very good locally since our companies bid on all projects, industrial, commercial and institutional.”

The new PUC building would include administration offices, a work area and vehicle storage and repair area.

Unused property around the site, including the existing two buildings, would be sold for an estimated $3 million and a downtown billing office would sell for another $1 million.

That too, could lead to more renovation projects for the industry, Thomas said.

“This is a big step for us,” said PUC president Brian Curran. “It’s something we’ve been dealing with for many years.”

The new building would replace the existing circa 1965 PUC building, improve energy efficiency and air quality and provide adequate room for vehicle repairs, new staff locker rooms and lunch room facilities.

By 2007 cost estimates, renovations to the existing building would cost more than $12 million and space would still be limited.

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