Fencing is coming down this week around the new portion of Elliot Lake's rebuilt shopping centre — four years after the roof of the old Algo Centre mall collapsed, killing two women.

The unveiling symbolizes a fresh start for the small northern community.

The MPP for the area, Michael Mantha, says the old mall was a central meeting place for the town that's mostly made up of retirees.

So when it came down, people lost that sense of community.

Mike Mantha

Michael Mantha, MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin says Elliot Lake is growing. "The cloud has moved on and Elliot Lake is going in the right direction." (ontariondp.ca)

With the unveiling of the newest section of the mall, Mantha says "individuals will be able to sit down and just have a coffee, and recognize each other within the community, enjoy in discussion, share a laugh, maybe shed a tear.

"But also just to have that central gathering point is essential to the community."

Mantha notes people are remaining in town and other businesses are opening up.

"The town is growing. The cloud has moved on and Elliot Lake is going in the right direction."

'We're doing fine'

As project manager, William Elliott took on the challenge of designing a new mall.

He says there was lots of excitement when the Foodland grocery store opened.

He expects even more emotion when the second part of the new mall is unveiled later this summer.

"I think the message out there is, 'we're doing fine and we're going to be fine and we're going to prosper'."

William Elliott

William Elliott, general manager for regional economic development agency ELNOS, has been the project manager for the site preparation phase of Elliot Lake's new Pearson Plaza. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Elliott, who is general manager for regional development agency ELNOS, has been asked by city to handhold the project.

"People said, 'we don't want stairs, we don't want multi-level, we don't want everything on one level.' So we were required to create, in a community that's all hills and solid rock, a nine acre flat site," he said.

"So just to do the site work was a huge endeavour."

Finish line in sight

Elliott says the town of 11,000 people finally has something to look forward to.

"We're very pleased to now see the finish line in sight," he continued.

"The anticipation and excitement around Foodland in April was amazing. Even having that part open brought the tension in the community way down and brought the spirits of the community way up, and that's only going to be amplified when we get into the rest of the mall."

The project is bringing more to the community than just shopping, Elliott continued.

"Lots of people were going to the mall two, three, four days a week," he said.

"So ... take that away from them without a good substitute, [it] was very hard on the community. And we've heard loud and clear that [they] want that back."

Evolution of new mall

Construction of the mall began in December of 2012.

Foodland opened April 1 of this year, and retailers Dollarama and Turner's Corner General Store will move in over the next two weeks.

The plaza will be 60 to 70,000 square feet, with an ability to expand 30 to 40,000 square feet.

The library will open this fall. Elliott says it will be the showcase piece of the mall, measuring 10,000 square feet in size, with lots of windows bringing in natural light.


The trial of the only person to be charged in connection with the fatal Algo Centre Mall collapse starts Sept. 6 in Sault Ste. Marie.

Robert Wood was the last engineer to inspect the shopping centre.

He's facing two counts of criminal negligence causing death, and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.