The Port Lands

The Port Lands: A Brief History

Following the creation of the Seaway in 1956, local leadership announced the creation of a port in Cornwall to accommodate shipping and receiving for local factories. The harbour was officially opened at the foot of Edward Street in 1967. Annual traffic came primarily with the unloading of raw materials like coal and cotton, raw materials used by the local factories like Courtaulds, Domtar Fine Papers, ICI Industries and other companies located in the area of the Cotton Mills. Today, the 45,000-square-foot warehouse at the foot of Edward Street—known as the “Tin Shed”—continues to receive and store materials for a few local companies. Due to the loss of industry along the river, the port is now only used occasionally by cargo ships, navy frigates and tall ships. With renewed interest and commitment in the development of the Port Lands, this project could represent the most substantial economic development project our region has ever embarked on.

 

A Significant Agreement

On April 15th, 2016 the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and the Corporation of the City of Cornwall signed a historic agreement resulting in the two bodies co-owning the Port Lands previously owned and managed by Transport Canada. The federal government divested approximately 16 acres of land, the adjoining waterlot, and the commercial wharf. They also provided an endowment to cover the costs of operations, maintenance, administrative services, and future development. The funds currently sit in an interest-bearing account.

As part of this agreement—one of the only agreements to recognize joint ownership between a municipality and a First Nation—the co-owners agreed to work together in a spirit of good faith, mutual respect, understanding and harmony in the planning, development and maintenance of the Port Lands. A

copy of the Co-Owners Agreement can be found here.

Note: The Akwesasne Harbourfront Development Corporation and the Cornwall Harbourfront Development Corporation are the official co-owners of the Port Lands.

 

Moving Forward

The Co-Owners concur that all future plans will focus on commercial, recreational, and tourism uses with some consideration for residential. Industrial use has been excluded.

To advance the project, the Co-Owners agreed to assign a Manager to advance the project in an administrative capacity and act in the best interest of both parties and their constituents. In July 2020, Cornwall and the Counties Community Futures Development Corporation was engaged as the Manager on a one-year renewable term. The CFDC’s advisory arm, the Cross Border Partnership Program (CBPP) will lead the file.

In relation to the Port Lands project, the CBPP is uniquely positioned to offer a local presence, a team that understands the complexities involved in a joint, large-scale project, and deep expertise in the communities involved. It will act as a neutral party, representing both Co-Owners fairly and with regional betterment and economic benefit in mind.