Mark May 17 on your calendar.
That day has been scheduled as the grand opening for new Rainy Lake Square on Scott Street.
Tannis Drysdale, consultant for the Rainy River Future Development Corp., said the plan is to have an official opening in the afternoon, followed by a concert in the evening.
“More on that as the months go by," she remarked. "But we're excited about our grand opening.”
Drysdale said the RRFDC has applied for three grants to help subsidize activities at the square, and has meetings now set up with different groups or individuals that may hold activities there.
“We are committed to making sure that every Thursday night from May long weekend to the end of September, there's an activity at the square,” she noted, adding this could be a movie or a band or an event running from 6-8 p.m.
There also will be a Thursday market, as there is now, as well as a Saturday one, Drysdale added.
Meanwhile, the next major focus for tourism promotion through the Fort Frances Tourism Centre will be “experiences” that tourists can achieve in Fort Frances and on Rainy Lake.
Drysdale noted that this past summer, the Fort Frances Tourism Centre created a series of “tours” for visitors and provided them to local hotels.
In 2018, this will be expanded to provide “experiential tourism” for visitors so they get a taste of life here.
To provide an example, Drysdale noted if a tourist were to go to Chinatown in Toronto, they might want to take in a tea tasting.
This would be the Northwestern Ontario equivalent.
“We will be looking for folks in the community to share experiences in town," noted Drysdale. ”You can actually generate revenue from this [using apps like Airbnb].
I think it will be an interesting add-on to our tourism offering," she added.
“So we're going to work over the next year with the private sector and individuals to share our experience of Northwestern Ontario with tourists as they come through.”
Visitation to the Fort Frances Tourism Centre was up slightly last year over 2016, and people seemed to be coming in more to see the exhibits than previously, Drysdale noted.
In related news, the town won't be making any major changes to its industrial park lot land sale policy.
Drysdale noted the Economic Development Advisory Committee reviewed the policy over the last few months, and the chief recommendation is to maintain the current lot price of $3,500 an acre but adjust the development guarantee to be $10,000 per acre or lot, whichever is lesser.
This is so lots smaller than one acre will have a development guarantee of $10,000.
It used to be that if you bought a half-acre lot, there only would be a $5,000 guarantee.
Another recommendation is to require a review of the economic significance of the land sale to the town to be included in the sales process.
This is to ensure that whatever the lot is used for “has an overall benefit to the community and the economy,” Drysdale said.
Yet another is to declare lots 26, 27, and 28 surplus now so that the step does have to be revisited in future.
The land sale policy will be reviewed annually going forward, particularly since there's a possibility some or all of the mill properties suitable for commercial development could become available in the future.
The town currently has three shovel-ready lots available in the industrial park, and there are a number of private properties—with and without buildings—that are for sale.
There's also a bank of property the town owns that will take some preparation and investment to be competitively marketable, Drysdale noted.