Significant investments are in the works for various properties surrounding the Kingsway Entertainment District in anticipation of its late-2024 grand opening.
“I can see The Kingsway developing quite rapidly over the next few years,” said Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc, whose ward includes the KED.
Between potential housing developments, hotels, a gas station, strip malls, restaurants and a grocery store, he said there’s much to look forward to and plenty of undeveloped land in the area to contend with.
“The Kingsway is going to take on a whole new life,” he said. “We’re going to see a massive transformation in new businesses setting up in that area.”
Although Greater Sudbury city council remains divided on the project, a narrow majority has consistently supported the KED and recently voted in favour of greenlighting site preparation work, which is expected to begin by Nov. 29.
The heart of city council’s ongoing debate has been whether the project’s centrepiece, a new municipal arena, should have been located downtown and whether the Sudbury Community Arena should have been renovated instead.
“Downtown Sudbury at the present time wouldn’t be able to support this kind of development,” Leduc said, adding that downtown simply doesn’t have the land base required for what’s being planned for the KED.
With the council-approved site preparation work commitment of $5.9-million from the city, $2.2 million from Gateway Casinos & Entertainment, $1.1 million from the hotel partner and $530,000 from the developer, area property owner Mike Saucier said it looks like a done deal to him.
“The city would look so bad all around the world if something like that were to go south,” he said, adding that it’s a project he has been anticipating some incarnation of for “many years.” During this time, he has amassed property in anticipation of the area finally getting its turn for economic development.
Saucier recently purchased Chateau Guay Restaurant and Motel, located almost the street from the KED site, and has already gotten rolling on a significant expansion project that will see the restaurant double in size and the motel increase from 15 rooms to 150 within five years.
East of the KED is Winmar, a general contractor business Saucier owns alongside 12 acres of land he said would tie in nicely to the changing neighbourhood with the construction of a gas bar and “one-stop-shop” convenience store.
He has another four-acre piece of land beside the nearby North Edge Church that remains up in the air, but he said he is “game to look at anything.”
“A lot of retail is going into that area as well,” he said. “Small retail outlets … maybe a smaller clothing store or souvenir shop or stuff like that. If they have these events going on, people have to go home with something.”
Saucier’s goal is to get 80 per cent of these projects done by the time the KED opens in approximately three years.
“It’s going to be very busy very soon,” he said. “We’re going to see what people need and hopefully facilitate what they need.”
Also keen on the project, Moonlight Inn and Suites Sudbury manager Myur (he requested his last name not be used) said he also expects to see more traffic in the area once the KED finally opens.
His 20-unit family-owned motel is next-door to Chateau Guay, and while he said he’s supportive of the project, he’s also concerned about the city’s handling of it.
“I am for it, it doesn’t matter where it is it, just has to get done right,” Myur said. “As a citizen of Sudbury, that’s what I want.”
Traffic will be a concern, he said, pointing not only to motor vehicle traffic but also pedestrians, cyclists and snowmobilers.
“The way the city works is … it’s build it first, fix it after,” he said. “Hopefully they take their time and do it right.”
Since The Kingsway is part of the municipality’s nodes and corridors program, which strives to spur development along major roadways, those applying for development permits along The Kingsway will benefit from development charges slashed in half.
Further, Leduc said, developers can also apply to have their development charges deferred through a program city council approved last year.
“Sudbury’s open for business,” he said. “We will see some significant investments being made in the coming years with the entertainment district.”
Although the city’s elected officials have approved the KED to proceed through site preparation work, it’s expected to remain a topic of discussion for some time.
Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland has tabled a motion requesting stronger assurances among the project’s partners, the Minnow Lake Restoration Group has an ongoing legal challenge against the project and Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier’s recent allegation that he was offered a bribe to support the KED location is being investigated by the Ontario Provincial Police.
City council is also expected to vote on a venue operator and a final budget based on the results of a design/build request for proposals.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.