North Bay City Council has received a formal request from the Board of Directors of Downtown North Bay & Waterfront to delay the planned Main Street Rejuvenation project to spring 2023.
As it stands, the nearly $6.2-million project is set to go out for tender in April with construction slated to begin in July. The project involves the reconstruction of Main Street from Cassells Street to Sherbrooke Street and Ferguson Street from Main Street to Oak Street, as outlined in the North Bay Downtown Waterfront Master Plan (DWMP).
See related: Report: Main Street 'beyond rehabilitation'
The Downtown Board recently passed a resolution and forwarded it along with a letter to the City of North Bay proposing to delay the tendering of the project to December 2022 with a construction start in the spring of 2023.
The recommendation from City staff is for Council to approve the request during Tuesday's special meeting, scheduled for noon. Councillors Mac Bain and Dave Mendicino sit on the Downtown Board that unanimously passed the motion.
The Board advises it has heard from its membership and they have expressed "they would like consideration to be given to the business community to recover without construction this year."
While Downtown North Bay & Waterfront is supportive of the design, refurbishment and construction plan, the group believes delaying construction to spring 2023 "is the best option for the success of our membership and overall health of Downtown.
"Our businesses have suffered greatly as a result of COVID-19 and ask you to consider pivoting as many businesses have done over the last two years. We have lost many in the wake of the pandemic and we do think closing streets and sidewalks upon 'reopening' could result in more closures, especially for our restaurant and service industries that have suffered the most."
If approved, Downtown North Bay & Waterfront will use the extra time to help business owners prepare for the impact of the multi-year construction timeline by developing a communication plan designed to avoid negative feedback from both members and the community.
The engineering and design phase of the project is nearly 90 per cent complete, according to the associated staff report, so if the request is approved, staff will easily have the design drawings and tender package ready for posting in December.
See also: Downtown design turf war settled
Engineering does not anticipate delaying construction until spring 2023 will cause a significant impact on the road and surface infrastructure — it is already considered to have reached its end of useful life — although the "delay may result in some additional minor repairs in 2022."
The nearly $6.2-million Main Street Rejuvenation project has lines in both the 2021 and 2022 capital budgets and includes $3 million in Ontario Community Infrastructure Funding (OCIF). If the project is delayed, the OCIF money would go into the City's reserves and later be applied according to the extended timeline. The report notes an application for third-party funding has been submitted for the project.
The Downtown Board, despite the request for the delay, remains supportive of the project it feels will "not only help our community see the Downtown as the place to be but also help businesses and aid with development and future investment in the heart of our city."