As downtown businesses continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic, their collective hope is the momentum they've built up since will continue to roll through this reconstruction project and they will all come out the other side ready to enjoy an updated and friendlier community space.
The City of North Bay has officially launched the first major renovation of its Main Street in nearly 40 years, a project designed to create an even brighter and more inviting core of the city with new sidewalks, a paved roadway, stairs, railings, lighting, and more.
“This project will make Main Street more attractive for new businesses, residents, and visitors. It will add vibrancy and contribute to the long-term success of our Downtown Waterfront,” said Mayor Peter Chirico. “Thanks goes out to MPP Fedeli and the Ontario government for supporting this project. I would also like to recognize the businesses and property owners who have continued to champion our Downtown.”
The $8.85-million Making Over Main Street project, which gets underway today, will take place over two years. It involves the reconstruction of Main Street between Sherbrooke and Cassells streets, as well as a section of Ferguson Street between Main and Oak streets. New above-ground infrastructure will be installed, including road base, curb and gutter, concrete crosswalks, exposed aggregate accent sidewalk, concrete sidewalk, traffic control system, streetlight upgrades, festoon lighting, asphalt paving and other ancillary works.
The first phase of the project is scheduled to be completed in early November and includes the two blocks of Main Street bounded by Sherbrooke and Wyld streets and Wyld and Ferguson streets. The project is set to resume in April 2024 and is tentatively scheduled for completion later that fall.
Each block is expected to take up to three months to complete. Only once a block has been fully reconstructed will the contractor proceed to the next block.
“We’re looking forward to having a fresh, new look and are excited to get this project moving. Once completed, this project will not only benefit existing businesses and property owners but will help attract new investment,” said Katie Bevan, chair of the Downtown Improvement Area. “In the meantime, the Downtown will be open throughout the construction, there will be plenty of parking and the summer events that you love to attend will still be taking place.”
Bevan added, "This is a walkable community. We need people walking around, enjoying it, and being safe ... It feels like there is a lot of momentum and this is that final push to get downtown where it needs to be."
The City of North Bay says the Making Over Main Street project was identified as a major component of the Downtown Waterfront Master Plan, which has also been the catalyst for other recent and upcoming projects aimed at enhancing community amenities in the Downtown Waterfront. This includes the new Rotary Playground and All-Wheel Park supported by Kiwanis, both of which are slated to get underway this year.
“It’s exciting to see the vision for this district continuing to take shape. A vibrant Downtown Waterfront will help to make North Bay an even more attractive destination for visitors,” said Tanya Bédard, executive director at Tourism North Bay.
The east block of Main Street between Sherbrooke and Wyld streets will be closed to vehicular traffic starting on Monday, May 15 as the contractor for the Making Over Main Street project, MCA Contracting Ltd., mobilizes. Drivers should expect short detours around blocks under construction for the duration of the project. Pedestrian access to businesses will remain open during the construction.
Two-hour free parking will continue to be in effect in both Lot 2 (Oak Street) and Lot 4 (parking garage); and will be extended to Lot 10 (Wyld Street) during the 2023 construction period.
In late March, North Bay City Council paved the way for the Main Street rehabilitation project despite inflationary pressures by awarding an $8.85-million contract to MCA Contracting Ltd. of Lively, Ont. In March 2022, the construction cost was pegged at $6.2 million.
Just months ago, the overall project cost, including $340,000 for engineering and design plus contingencies, was given an estimated budget line of $7.6 million. That included $690,000 in NOHFC funding and approximately $3 million in Ontario Community Infrastructure Funding (OCIF). Total project costs include the
cost of construction, design fees, and engineering consultant fees.
“Our government is proud to support North Bay with an NOHFC investment that will make a real difference in our community’s downtown core,” said Vic Fedeli, MPP for Nipissing.
An additional $2 million in funding is required for completion of the project, according to a staff report. Those funds will be transferred — $1 million from each of two municipal reserves — to cover the inflated cost of the project.
In late April, the City of North Bay adjusted the starting location of the project following the feedback of the membership of downtown businesses and with the cooperation of the contractor. This change will have no impact on the project cost or completion date.
See related: Switcheroo for Main Street project
“Based on the input of its membership, the DIA requested that the sequencing of the project be reversed,” said Mayor Peter Chirico. “The past few years have been challenging for downtown merchants and they’re still trying to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given that the DIA property and business owners will be impacted by the project the most, the City has made the decision to accommodate this request.”
To learn more about the Making Over Main Street project, including background and frequently asked questions and answers, please click here.