Northern Saskatchewan's largest town is laying the foundation for an ambitious economic development initiative designed to create a welcoming frontage for new businesses as well as existing residents.
The Town of La Ronge hopes to create a major new economic draw for the community and region by preparing lands along Highway 102 for development.
That’s according to preliminary findings from a Highway 102 Economic Corridor Master Plan developed by Saskatoon community planning firm Crosby Hanna and Associates for $96,000. The plan is meant to help the community capitalize on new economic activities by proposing to create new entries to town from the highway, wayfinding, more access, land servicing and lot layout, development standards, and future streetscape and waterfront projects.
“We are now looking for comments and feedback from the community to give us a sense of how they feel about the plan, what might be some of the concerns, or what really speaks to them about the plan,” said La Ronge’s chief administrative officer Lyle Hannan. “Prior to finalizing it, if there is anything we need to tweak or adjust, there are opportunities to do that.”
The master plan states that La Ronge has significant valuable land holdings for development. It notes a number of businesses have expressed interest in serving the community, but that readiness of the land has been a barrier. It’s expected that having a plan with costs and a timeframe appropriate for the town’s financial capacity would be a key factor in attracting hotels, restaurants, and retail concepts.
The master plan identifies two phases for proposed development along Highway 102. They include the expansion of roads and lots for new businesses, as well as a new truck stop and relocating the RCMP detachment to a spot next to the La Ronge Regional Fire Hall.
“At the end of the day, if council and the community have the will to see it done, there are different ways to be going about it,” Hannan said. “I believe the cost estimates are in the $7 to $8 million range for the full build-out that is in the proposed plan, and how that would be funded could be through any number of mechanisms, including grants, taxation, recouping through development fees.”
The goal of the plan is to draw people into La Ronge to spend time and money. With Lac La Ronge serving as a magnet, a key consideration for investment is to make La Ronge Avenue an appealing place to not only walk but to allow businesses to host patio and sidewalk activities.
Another goal would be to improve the quality of life for residents, which could be done with a potential waterfront project.
“I imagine this plan will be finalized later in the fall or early winter,” Hannan said. “The findings of the plan will be integrated into our long-term capital plan that we will be developing with council ahead of the end of the fiscal year.”