SAULT STE. MARIE -- The City of Sault Ste. Marie is moving ahead with updated plans for a Civic Plaza in the city’s downtown core. While city council is unanimously behind the project, there are some concerns about funding and how much it will cost the city.

The Sault’s Downtown Association is pleased with what it sees in the plans. Executive director Salvatore Marchese said the response he’s heard has been positive.

“I think they’ve done a really good job at trying to capture different elements and activities that can go on down there, from the skating rink to the sound stage to the area for shoppers’ markets,” said Marchese. “It’s a really inclusive area. It should give people a lot of options and opportunities to do things.”

The estimated cost for the plaza is more than $8.4 million. The city is waiting on funding from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. and is embarking on a fundraising campaign.

“We’re eagerly kind of hoping and waiting for confirmation from NOHFC,” said Mayor Christian Provenzano. “If we receive that funding, we will be tendering and moving ahead. And if we don’t, we’ll have to go back to the drawing board.”

Concerns about the cost

Councillor Matthew Shoemaker, who supports the Civic Plaza concept, also has some concerns about the cost.

“It’s becoming too expensive to be honest,” said Shoemaker. “We’ve reach the point where if the costs go up any more, we’ll have to look at significantly reducing the footprint or scaling back some of the features.”

Shoemaker is also worried the city’s total contribution to the project, which stands at more than $5 million, is dependent on provincial funding.

“We approved the project on the basis that we will only spend the money that we approved,” Shoemaker says. “But that’s contingent on the $2 million being received by the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund.”

The city is also looking to raise $600,000 in private donations through a fundraising campaign. The local Rotary Club has already committed $200,000 for Civic Plaza.