Condominiums and a hotel on our waterfront. Two, maybe three buildings, if sales go well, valued at around $60M. Sounds great but who is going to build them? How many local workers will benefit from this construction?
The development consortium is made up of five Companies. 1778691 Ontario Inc which has strong ties to Man-Shield Construction – construction, Laureate Developments – investment company, Lombard North Group – planning consultant, the Re Solve Group – marketing representatives and Double A Ventures. Joe Bova and Peter Belluz are two principal owners of Man-Shield Construction. Joe Bova is also Secretary-Treasurer of 1778691 Ontario Inc, and President of Laureate Developments. Peter Belluz is also Director of Laureate Developments. Gisele MacDonald is President of 1778691 Ontario Inc, President of Re Solve Group and President of Chartier Property Management . Re Solve Group, Man-Shield Construction, Chartier Property Management along with Penner and Penner Royal LePage Real Estate are partners in the Aspen Meadows Condominium Development in Winnipeg Manitoba.
Laureate Developments arrange project financing, Lombard North Group create the plans for the condominiums, hotel, etc, Man-Shield Construction builds condominiums and hotel, Re Solve Group does the marketing and Penner and Penner Royal LePage Real Estate sells the condominiums. So where does Thunder Bay labour fit into this project? Does the agreement between the City of Thunder Bay and the developers stipulate the hiring of local construction workers? I suspect that most of the Man-Shield Construction workers will come from Winnipeg. Union? non-union?
One thing that was missing in the Monday evening’s presentation presentation was the number of local construction jobs that will be created by this project. Our Council has never been shy about throwing the most optimistic job creation estimates around especially with many incumbents fighting for the political lives. According to Tbnewswatch, Mr. Bova said we will be incredibly pleased that the condos and hotel are coming to Thunder Bay, the final price tag for the private-sector will be well over the $60M original estimate and will produce $42M in wages over the next two to three years. $42M in salaries over two to three years to who? That was not specified.
In an early undated online article in Thunder Bay Business Magazine, Mr Bova is quoted saying “ An important component of the project is the indoor water park. It will be 15,000 square feet and three stories high for a total area of 45,000 square feet. The two condos will be adjacent to the hotel and the waterpark along with green ways. The parking for the hotel has to be adjacent to the hotel and we want the parking underground to preserve the look of the site.” He goes on to say People will want to come and stay at the hotel, be part of the waterpark, shop and so on. It is for the people of Thunder Bay, not just for a few. The waterpark, the wellness centre, the spa are beautiful parts of the development.” “ We have two hotel owners who have shown great interest. You can fill the rooms with business people from Monday to Friday as on the weekend they go home. The waterpark becomes a draw for the catch basin of Thunder Bay. It is a huge enticement. The wellness park is a separate business. They’re interrelated. Today in the hotel business you need more than 4 walls and a bed. The water park will be open to everyone in the community,” That was then.
As of last Monday, the developers are still negotiating with a hotel company. The size of the hotel is still “yet to be determined” but it will produce 300 jobs and 50 spinoff jobs according to Ms. MacDonald. That is 250 more jobs than original estimated in the Prince Arthur’s Landing Economic Assessment dated March 2009. This is a very interesting announcement because during Monday’s City Council Meeting, our Council voted to accept the deletion of this feature, a requirement that was part of the Prince Arthur’s Landing Agreement, at the request of the developer. That weekend enticement is now gone. . This important decision was made in camera. Why was the public not informed? On the plus side, this hotel of undetermined size, minus a 45,000 square foot waterpark will produce 250 MORE jobs than a hotel with the waterpark. A lesser man might point out that, if the entire hotel was eliminated, even more jobs might be created but I am not that man. I will take the high road.
The waterpark was in the old Prince Arthur’s Landing Development agreement that between the City of Thunder and the developers signed last summer. There is a new agreement now. When was it signed? What does it says? Why is it a secret? As for business people which were predicted to form the major part of the hotel’s weekday clientele, where are they going to come from? Unless, there is a major influx of new business people visiting Thunder Bay in the future, they will be poached from existing hotels. A question then must be asked. Will the 300 hotel jobs be new jobs or existing jobs that will migrate from existing hotels? This is not clear.
Another building that currently resides on our waterfront seems to have been completely forgotten. The CN station was vacated late summer of 2009 at the request of the developer. According to a report in the Chronicle Journal dated July 29, 2010, “The CN Station will be leased for commercial uses for the hotel, and land will also be leased for construction of retail shops and restaurants. The leases are for 60 years, with a renewal at 40 years for another 60 years.” A very good deal for the developer. The fact that there was no hotel attached to the project at the time is a key piece of information. The developer through their Re-Solve Group put ads in various newspapers last winter looking for a hotelier. I believe that there was an intentional misrepresentation of the facts here. I believe someone lied. So who lied to whom? Mark Bentz is the Chairman of the Waterfront Development Committee. Did he know that there was no hotel when the city negotiated the CN Station lease? If he didn’t why did he not? Are there other things he does not know? Did the developers lie to the city? If they did, then are they lying about other things? If the station is not going to be used for the hotel, why is the developer being allowed to continue to lease the train station? Is Mr. Bova going to open a Red Lobster there? A Chili’s? If the city wants to lease the building out, then should other companies not have a chance to submit a proposal? Local companies? All I know is the developer now has leased the CN station for at least 60 years without having to give much in return. Great deal alright.
Our City Council has allowed the developer to eliminate the commercial space on the ground floor of the condominiums. Remember that? Our City Council has now allowed the developer to eliminate the 45,000 square foot Waterpark. The Waterfont Plaza, a large area that was going to be a central people place has almost disappeared. The plaza has been reduced in size to accommodate the developers demand to lease land in that area. This land was constructed at great expense by infilling of a portion of the marina. The developer will construct a commercial building there. The CN Station has been leased to the developer for over 60 years even though the reason that this property was required was not true.
The City of Thunder Bay has invested $50M of taxpayers money in this project. The City of Thunder Bay has provided the developer with a fully serviced property. The City of Thunder Bay is about to spend another $1.1M plus for site remediation on that fully serviced property. The City of Thunder Bay has granted every request made by the developer to drop requirements no matter how key the feature was in the selling of the project to the public. In return, the city may get a hotel of yet undermined size, operated by a yet to be determined hotel company, one condominium tower, if….and only if there is a hotel company building a hotel and at least 50% of the condominiums are pre-sold. That is the things that we know about. I believe there is more that we don’t know. In return for all these acquiesces, the developer has given us ….what?
“The ongoing economic benefit is humungous for Thunder Bay,” This is a quote in the Tbnewswatch article dated September 27, 2010 . It was spoken by Aldo Ruberto, Councilor-at-Large. He was speaking of the $1M a year in taxes this project might generate. This reminds me of the proverbial phrase , Less is More. This project that will end up being so much less than what was promised and presented to the citizens of Thunder Bay back in May 2007. The Thunder Bay City Council version of this phrase might be, Less is Humungous but I believe that in this case Less is just….Less.