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Letter: Old hospital deserves better than ‘boring’ design

A reader said he is pleased to see some movement regarding the site of the former hospital on Paris Street but worries the proposed design lacks vision
An artist’s rendition of the proposed Panoramic Properties redevelopment of 700 Paris Street (the long-vacant Sudbury General Hospital). This view is facing south, from Facer Street.

I, like many people in Sudbury, have followed the state of the old St. Joseph hospital building with interest, hope, despair and derision during the many stages of this story. 

Between the building’s purchase by Panoramic Properties to Risk’s mural and everything that’s happened (or lack thereof) in between, the wait has been long and uncertain. I applaud the efforts by those that tried to keep the spirit of the project’s potential alive.  

The latest news, after a long wait, came mostly as a pleasant surprise. Suffice to say it’s nice to see that at least something is moving forward to fill in the gap in our housing supply and for the old hospital site.

The proposed 530 units will absolutely help in the long run and it is very welcome. In addition to the housing, the other programming — a restaurant with panoramic views and a café on the bottom floor — are a welcome commercial idea in that neighborhood and sure to see some decent traffic. I hope the commercial and housing potential of that area can continue to be explored.  

I do, however, have some issues regarding the design of the proposed buildings. Understandably, the renderings presented by Panoramic Properties are most likely not final. But beyond the simply immense scale of the proposed buildings, which loom over Bell Park and Ramsey Lake like three boring Towers of Sauron, I worry that we’ll allow Sudbury to fall into the architectural trap of more modernist design — the kind of project that you can find anywhere and everywhere and in no way reflects the idiosyncrasies of Greater Sudbury. 

I’m sorry to say, but visually, it is an every-project; it is a nothing-project. There is a very real and present opportunity for Sudbury to further develop its architectural identity and to find  something that people can celebrate and enjoy.

I just hope the city and Panoramic Properties recognize the opportunity present here to develop  something really special for Sudbury, something that will assuredly make the “eyesore” comments disappear, not persist. Here’s hoping they have the courage to act and to dare.

David Gagnon