Meeting Tuesday, city council approved the next step in building a new library, art gallery and convention centre downtown, on the site of the current Sudbury Arena, which will be demolished.
Councillors authorized $175,000 to fund continuing work on developing the project for the next six to eight months. No final decision on whether to proceed will be made at least until the next city council finalizes the 2019 city budget after the October municipal election.
Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger said when it's built, the development will be something residents will want to take visitors to see, similar to Science North and Dynamic Earth.
“This would be another element of pride for our community,” Bigger said.
Ward 5 Coun. Bob Kirwan said the city has been waiting for decades for this to happen, and with the other projects going on, the city is at a “tipping point” for development.
“Greater Sudbury deserves this,” Kirwan said. “We don't have to be afraid of competition ... We know we can afford it, we have the capacity.”
“We can have this,” agreed Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre. “It's within our reach and I totally support this.”
But not everyone was happy with the $107.5 million project, which has been dubbed the Junction.
Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier said he can't understand why Sudbury Arena has to be demolished. He's heard it's “not viable,” but what does that mean?
“The concept of tearing down a building that has nothing against it ... no one has ever proven to me what's wrong with that building,” Montpellier said.
He was told that the arena was built to be a hockey rink, and the very specific needs of projects — especially the library and the art gallery — wasn't feasible in the current building. However, the lower bowl of the arena will be used for 115 underground parking spaces.
Montpellier also had an issue with putting the convention centre downtown, instead of twinning it with the new community arena on the Kingsway, wondering whether they would compete with one another.
With arts groups coming to council for bailouts, and plans to also build the Place des Arts downtown, he wondered how adding so much space made sense.
“I can't support any of this,” agreed Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini.
He said it was like having a house with a leaky roof and cracked foundation, but deciding to build a deck instead of fixing the main problems.
“This is going to add a large financial strain,” Vagnini said. “Right now we need to go back to the basics.”
Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto was successfully re-purposed when a new rink was built, he said, “and now you can't do it with Sudbury Arena?”
In the end, only Vagnini and Montpellier voted against the motion. More information about The Junction is available at https://www.greatersudbury.ca/large-projects