THUNDER BAY, ONT. — The Streatery, which culminates the revitalization of Thunder Bay’s north-side downtown area and the businesses that operate there, has received a boost of $41,500.
Kara Pratt, co-ordinator of the Waterfront District Business Improvement Area, says they had to apply for the funding, which will benefit 170 businesses in the waterfront area.
“It’s being used for various things,” she said. “Part of it is additional flowers that we have downtown. There is a parklet on Cumberland Street North that is being painted by (an artist) to create a safe space for kids to play in the area. We noticed that we needed to slow down traffic so those rocks were added last year, and we’ve actually activated the space this year. So a portion of the money is going towards that.”
Some of the funding, she says, has already been used towards having artists and buskers on the streets during the time that the cruise ships are in town to activate the streets “in positive ways.”
The money, which came thanks to the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) and Tourism Thunder Bay, will also put artists in various businesses, restaurants and retailers to “give that coffee shop feeling” while people are out shopping this fall.
“The bottom line is attracting tourism and attracting people downtown and one of those feeders of course was the cruise ships,” Pratt said.
Paul Pepe, manager of Tourism Thunder Bay, says this is all about creating a more vibrant outdoor gathering space for diners and retail travellers.
“There’s a number of cafes, restaurants, bakeries and bars that have outdoor seating areas,” he said.
“What this funding has done is it’s really created a much more animated outdoor space downtown that is much more attractive for residents and visitors. It’ll create a more vibrant destination for people.”
With the warm season being short in the region, many businesses have attempted to stretch the season by installing portable heaters for their outdoor guests.
“If the weather holds out like this, we want to see an extension of the season as long as possible,” Pepe said. “The next thing we want to do is turn our attention to how we can create a more vibrant winter destination.”
Pepe says there are cities all over the world, particularly in Europe, which do a great job of estimating their outdoor spaces in winter.
“We are a winter city too,” he said. “Certainly our conversations are now returning to that next phase and how to create year-round activities outdoors in the inner business districts.”
He says the whole “outdoor” dining strategy began during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way for people to support initiatives to create new outdoor dining spaces during indoor dining restrictions.
It proved to be so popular that it’s been extended well beyond, providing an enhancement to both businesses and the downtown core.
“It’s also going to help create a bit of an experiment for how that reimagining and redevelopment of the Red River road corridor is going to go and how it’s going to work,” Pepe said.
He praised the Waterfront District BIA, calling them a great partner to work with because they “take charge.”
The Tourism Development Fund is provided through the CEDC Tourism Development Fund, which is made possible by the municipal accommodation tax. The city collects a four-per cent levy on all hotel and motel hospitality rooms in the city which goes into a fund. The city retains 50 per cent of what’s collected and the other 50 per cent is transferred to the CEDC. The fund is granted out to community groups, organizations, and businesses that are bringing in conventions, sporting, tourism, and cultural events as well as destination development enhancement projects like the Streatery initiative.
Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal