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Feds mulling new Marco Polo plan
'DON'T EVER GIVE UP': Cabinet minister Claudette Bradshaw's office is getting involved in talks to build a replica.

By ERIN DWYER and SANDRA DAVIS
Times Globe staff writer

    The Marco Polo project has been thrown a lifesaver.
    The three levels of government and the committee behind the $1.2million project to build a non-floating replica of the famous ship have been discussing a new strategy to have it move to the construction phase.
    That has Barry Ogden optimistic, to put it mildly.
    "I'm ecstatic," said the Saint John teacher who has worked for 12 years to see the replica built. "Everything is great. It's very, very hopeful.
    "When you work this hard and you believe in something, you know in your heart this is the right thing to do. "
    Last month, Mr Ogden's group was desolated when it was denied federal money through the Millennium Partnership Program.
    Two weeks ago, the group learned the reasons. Even though the project fit the program's criteria, bureaucrats thought the project could not be completed by the program's deadline of March 31, 2001, since no site had been secured. They were also worried about where the group was going to get all its funding: The city has pledged $600,000 but the Millennium program could only fund a third of the total project cost. That meant that the group still had to raise $200,000.
    Now the federal government, through Labour Minister Claudette Bradshaw's office, is encouraging the group to think there may be another way.
    "They've encouraged us that they think this is still a doable project , " said Mr. Ogden. "There are still a lot of things to work out, but it's very encouraging, especially since Saint John is the rightful owner of the title of 'Shipbuilding Capital of Canada,' both in the present and in the past."
    Mrs. Bradshaw confirms that her department has been talking to the Marco Polo people on a regular basis.
    "I've met them on several occasions, said the minister. "It's a big project. I've spoken to them and will continue to speak to them. Some projects take a long time coming, but don't ever give up. "
    She could not say when a definitive answer would be given to the group.
    One issue still unresolved is the matter of land. Mr. Ogden has pointed out in the past that many property owners and groups are involved in the quest to develop Saint John's waterfront and there is little co-ordination.
    The land issue may be resolved if the federal government pulls strings in this latest round of negotiations, though. Recently, the Coast Guard property went up for sale, a parcel of land uptown owned by the federal government.

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