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City OKs 'transformational' downtown apartment development

Includes 826 units, built with climate change in mind and geared toward lower-income seniors

A major apartment building development in the planning stages for almost a decade took a big step forward Monday when the city approved a rezoning to allow the full 826 units the developer aims to build downtown.

Jack Wolofski, of Kaymic Developments, made his pitch to the planning committee at Tom Davies Square, where among those to speak in favour of his plan was former Mayor Jim Gordon.

Wolofski wants to build Project Manitou — two apartment buildings on land bordering Brady Street, Van Horne Street, St. Raphael Street and Lourdes Street.

The current zoning allows a maximum of 800 apartments. The units would be geared to older, lower-income seniors and he said the development would modelled on best building practices to fight climate change. 

The area would have solar panels, a cistern would collect storm water runoff from the roof, and another would collect remaining stormwater, which would be sterilized. Composting would be done on site and used for a winter garden, Wolofski said. 

And aggregate needed for construction would come from rock blasted at the site, rather than trucking it in, reducing the impact on the environment further.  
Wolofski said his project not only aims to help older seniors, but to continue to the Sudbury tradition of being on the leading edge of land reclamation and green technology.

“When I first came here, that mountain was black rock,” said the elderly Wolofski. 

As part of that commitment, he said they are designing the units with incentives for people not to have cars. Not only will apartments with parking cost $100 a month more, there will be green spaces for outdoor activity, arts and crafts projects, a movie theatre, library, a clinic with 24-7 nursing, maybe a medical clinic and other amenities for seniors. 

Plus regular outings for shopping and medical appointments will be part of what residents will be offered to ease their transition to living without vehicles.

However, the plan requires the city to substantially reduce the parking requirements it normally expects. Under current rules, low-income housing units have to have 1.1 spaces for each apartment, which amount to 908 spaces for an 826 unit development. 

Wolofski is seeking to add just 260 spaces, some of them underground.

While the committee saw design options that could add much more parking, the developer plans to use transportation demand management to reduce the need for cars, the first such attempt in Greater Sudbury. And downtown is the perfect location, Wolofski said. 

“This is going to be quite the momentous development for this city,” added planning expert Dave Dorland. “This is probably the most important and impactful development that has come to this city in generations.”

Dorland said recently, the trend is toward requiring less parking for development, particularly when seniors are involved. In this case, he said it makes “no sense” to impose the normal parking requirements for a population less likely to need it.

“(But) if we need more parking, there is space to provide it,” Dorland said.

Some residents from the area attended Monday's meeting with concerns. One man said it was unfair that people in the area, already low income, worked hard to be able to afford a home, only to have it dwarfed by two massive buildings.

If this was in a richer area, he said people would be paying lawyers to stop the project. That isn't an option in this case.

“We have a right to sunlight,” he said.

Former Mayor Jim Gordon said he has known Wolofski a very long time, describing him as a man of integrity who is devoted to helping the “poor and downtrodden.”

Gordon said the apartments were badly needed by this demographic, with most developers focusing on more profitable developments. 

“Who else is going to build homes for older lower income seniors?,” he said. “Who else is going to build it? And who else cares about these people?” 

Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland said it was time for the city to review its parking requirements to take into account more recent trends encouraging people to ditch their vehicles. And with the recent overhaul of Sudbury Transit, most people in the apartments would be potential new customers for GOVA.

“What downtown Sudbury needs more than anything is people,” McCausland said.

“We need this housing,” added Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer. “This development fits every criteria this city has talked about for the last four or five years. There is no possible way we can deny this development. We must support this.”

The rezoning was approved, but the project is still a ways from beginning construction. There is money available from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp., but they needed the rezoning and to be much closer to construction before those applications can be made.

And decisions on parking requirements will come back to the city before construction begins. In the meantime, McCausland introduced a motion to review the city's parking requirements, with changes to the rules possible before construction begins.