CORNWALL, Ontario - There have been grand designs for Cornwall's waterfront since, well...since we've had a waterfront.
But to listen to Chuck Charlebois talk about the vision he has for the waterfront, specifically the Cornwall Harbour, it's not hard to see where he's going and how we can get there.
The plans are auspicious, and include transforming the harbour into a hub of commerce and development that would rival something you might find on the French Riviera.
Sure it's pie in the sky - but Charlebois, president of Groupe Renaissance Group, believes you have to start somewhere, and why not start somewhere big?
"Can you imagine having a beer out here, with the sun shining and being right on the river?" Charlebois exuded while taking a stroll on the waterfront.
The city planning advisory committee (PAC) has been shown a design for what the harbour area could look like. The hope is the harbour could go from a warehouse and pier into a multi-use hub that might offer a mix of recreation, residential and commercial amenities.
Charlebois said recently-completed surveys mirror the data collected years ago where residents pointed to a slew of changes they want to see in the harbour area.
A tourist information centre, public washrooms, rooftop patios, small-scale commercial outlets, docking for larger recreational boats and tall ships, kayak and equipment rentals - you name it, and people want it.
The key will be convincing partners with deep pockets, including private developers and government, to come together.
The cost of the reconstruction will run up to about $23 million according to Renaissance documents.
The first hurdle will be when the existing lease for the harbour property becomes available. The land is owned by the federal government, but leased out for the operation of a warehouse and the like.
"You have to keep the harbour because when you have the tall ships and (naval) frigates come in, that draws people," said Charlebois.
The plans have been lauded by members of PAC, who are also city councillors, so it's reasonable to suggest council as a whole will be receptive to proceeding with these plans.
But before that happens a financing scheme will have to be considered, and Charlebois said PAC will circulate the Renaissance documents with other city committees for input – particularly the waterfront development committee.
Renaissance will offer its vision up for public consumption Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Cornwall Public Library, where photos and more details will be made available.
"We want to include all the bells and whistles," said Charlebois.