Science North expansion plans progress

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — The pace is picking up with the development of the waterfront Science North project.

Organizers are closing in on their end dates in the schematic design phase of the project, which is expected to wrap up on March 31.

“It’s all at an 80-per cent level,” said Emily Kerton, the Northwest expansion project lead for Science North. “Out of that phase, we will have a four-part report. We will have finished the community stakeholder and Indigenous rights holder engagements. We’ll have completed our visitor experience design and program development. We’ll have completed our architectural schematic design, and then we’ll have also completed our operating business plan.”

Kerton noted that beyond March 31, they will continue with the community, stakeholder and Indigenous rights holder engagement, citing a lot of work that still needs to be done to build the new Thunder Bay centre and the expansion in Kenora.

“We are really conscientious of how we want this science centre to be a community science centre, so we want to continue with that engagement and keep getting people’s feedback,” she said.

Kerton says the end of March will bring an exciting time in the development of the project because they will have actual renderings, three-dimensional models, and slides through animation that will help people understand what this experience will look like. Plans to move into the capital campaign phase will commence shortly as their capital campaign feasibility study reaches completion.

The cost is estimated at $90 million for the construction of the two projects.

Kerton explained that includes the plan for operating funding and increasing their outreach services.

“The project has three tiers to it. There’s the Thunder Bay physical science centre build. In Kenora, we’re putting an addition on an existing building. And then there are our increased outreach programs,” she said.

The centre will likely start the capital campaign early next year, depending on what is determined in the feasibility study. Meanwhile, applications for many different funding programs at all government levels have been done.

“We are hopeful that we will be moving into the next stage of design and development, and that likely would start towards the end of 2023, beginning of 2024.”

Kerton says that shovels could hit the dirt by the end of 2025 with the centre operational by 2027-2028.

Meanwhile, as structural development work continues, the Science North team has partnered with Toronto Visitor Experiences through Reich and Petch Design International, and Two Row Architects to design the experience that visitors will enjoy upon entering the centres.

“We also have architects from the Northwest Design Collaborative, which is a group of architects out of Toronto, Thunder Bay’s Form Studio Architects, architect Brook McIlroy who’s based out of Winnipeg, and Ryan Gorrie who is an Indigenous architect, all working with us,” she said.

Kerton says they estimate that the completed project will bring in almost 60,000 people to visit the science centre each year.

“About 20,000 of those will be out-of-town tourists, which will help to generate economic stimulus for the entire community given that they’ll be staying overnight. They’ll be shopping and they’ll be eating at restaurants,” she pointed out.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal