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Downtown is the spot: Architecture school lecturer weighs in on event centre

In a letter to Sudbury.com, Ted Wilson outlines his case for a downtown event centre
Ted Wilson
Ted Wilson, a lecturer at the McEwen School of Archicture in downtown Sudbury, says downtown is the best location for a new events centre.

By: Ted Wilson

The third-year students at the McEwen School of Architecture recently completed an Urban Design Study of downtown Sudbury. The goal was to determine the capacity for the neighbourhood to accommodate a major community building program. Examples of such programs included a community library, art gallery, events centre, or a combination of programs.

The study considered three candidate sites: Energy Court, The Rainbow Centre, and the existing area around the current Sudbury Arena. The students’ research and design work clearly demonstrated that there is capacity for such a major program. In fact, a program such as an events centre holds tremendous potential for continuing and accelerating the current transformation of downtown. There are several features of the downtown that are contributing to this exciting transformation.

One of the unique values of downtown is the ability of visitors who happen to drive to events to arrive and park on all sides of downtown, and to depart in the same convenient manner. Connections with our transit hub are also readily available to access. In fact, the density of downtown also affords easy walking and biking access. And along the way, new places to get together for work or recreation are also increasing. People are enjoying coming to where people want to be. 

An events centre (and other similar large community building programs) in existing urban centres have the capacity for doing several things for the community in one project, such as revitalize infrastructure including greenways, walkways, bike paths, roads, water, sewerage, power and data systems. This happened with the very successful K Rock Centre in Kingston and the Budweiser Centre in London, Ont. 

One of the best international examples of this multi-layering of asset investment is Fed Square in Melbourne, Australia — an amazing arts and entertainment centre in a downtown district similar in scale to Sudbury. In addition to being a land bridge over a rail yard that links the downtown to a residential and recreation neighbourhood, Fed Square also provides all building cooling free on site, and stores millions of litres of stormwater for neighbourhood use.

In downtown Sudbury, assets such as the District Energy System managed by Toromont also provide a unique opportunity to think about the potential for the events centre to also be a state-of-the-art emergency response centre and net energy producer. 

An events centre can also externalize its energy by interacting with the surrounding downtown neighbourhood. The shops and services that typically occupy the concourse ring of the centre can be strategically positioned to open outward, providing services, entertainment, places to socialize, sit, eat, drink and just watch the world go by every day, a whole range of opportunities for business activity (and revenue) to add to the experience of those frequenting downtown Sudbury before and after a scheduled event at the centre every day.

Downtown Sudbury: Clearly capacity for growth.

Ted Wilson is a master lecturer at the McEwen School of Architecture