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Construction costs up 21% to build Junction East, council told

A more detailed analysis will be presented to council in September
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The initial design concept of the Junction East project was presented to city council on July 14.

After an hour of debate, two city councillors withdrew a motion to direct staff to provide a lower-cost alternative to the recommended design of the Junction East project after it was learned construction costs have increased by 21 per cent.

Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland and Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh tabled a motion seeking a lower-cost alternative to the recommended design when the project is brought forward for future decisions. The idea was to have an alternative presented at the Aug. 17 meeting.

“We want to formulate a framework to have a second option, so we can make a determination of what is the ideal version of this iconic project for us and for the future of the community,” said McCausland. 

Junction East includes a 62,000-square-foot building downtown. The original price tag was $46.5 million. It is expected to open in 2024. 

McIntosh said they wanted to bring an option to say yes or no to certain elements if the price tag is larger than expected.

However, following a “friendly request” from Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti, McCausland and McIntosh decided to withdraw the motion, with the proviso that it could come back to the table later.

Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo said council should not be taking this pit stop on the race yet.

“I think we have to go with the next lap before we make a pit stop,” he said. “If the cost comes back, and it is 21 per cent higher, then we can revisit a motion for an alternative costing, but we owe it to ourselves to go a bit further, get the better information, then decide we go pedal to the metal, or do we want to make some tough decisions.”

“I would be happy to withdraw this message, put it aside, and bring it back if necessary,” McIntosh said.

McCausland agreed.

“The reason why it was coming forward today was because that was the recommendation from Mr. Wood, that the best time to start a process like this to ensure we don’t have to go back to the drawing board and spend tens of thousands of dollars as opposed to thousands of dollars on a Plan B is now,” said McCausland.

Ian Wood, executive director of Strategic Initiatives, Communications and Citizen Service, said there are several significant changes that have taken place since 2018. 

First, the cost of the project has increased by about 21 per cent, due to a number of factors. 

“As a result of a number of factors over the past three years, costs have escalated since 2018 from our original construction budget,” Wood said. “Unsurprising, higher construction costs are a factor, and increasing the size of the building will be required to accommodate the addition of two potential partners — Sudbury Theatre Centre and the Sudbury Multicultural Folk Arts Association.” 

Those two organizations would be housed with a new central library and the Art Gallery of Sudbury. Discussions and work with these two groups has gone very well, Wood said.

“When we return in September, we will have much more details on what the actual building will look like and its costs,” said Wood. “We’ll have more of a schematic design, instead of just a conceptual design, and along with that will come a more realistic estimate in terms of construction costs.”

Second, the city is no longer considering building both Junction East and Junction West on the current site of the Sudbury Community Arena, Wood said. 

“We’re on a different site than we were considering three years ago, and we have separated Junction East from Junction West,” he said. 

Junction East will be located on Shaughnessy Street in the parking lot beside STC, the preferred site selected by council in 2019.

The city has completed its community engagement process, said Wood, which demonstrated high interest and expectations in the community.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm about this project, and both the theatre centre and the multicultural association have potential for significant contribution to the programming and services available.”

As for Junction West, which will house a convention and performance centre, city staff has had some discussion with the project consultant, but they are not committed to moving forward right now, said Wood.

“There are several emerging opportunities we will be looking at over the next few months and report back to council in September with analysis,” Wood said.

Council is already familiar with the Le Ledo proposal in the area of Elgin and Minto streets, he said. That project does have potential to include a hotel component, and Wood said they want to understand whether or not that can be the piece required for the convention and performance centre, or Junction West.

Staff continues to work on parking solutions for both Junction East and Junction West, but it’s a critical component for Junction West, should it proceed, said Wood.

“We hope to be able to provide a better analysis and update to council in September,” he said.

The next step will be working with partners on a much more intense look at the surrounding downtown neighbourhood, or the south district, between Tom Davies Square and the railway tracks, and between Paris Street and the School of Architecture, said Wood.

“There are other projects being planned in that space, and we want to have much more thorough discussions about the pathways, connections, transit connections to see what we should be doing in parallel with this project, or where we can assist other projects,” Wood said.

The city is also conducting a feasibility study on Net Zero, to understand what a net-zero building would look like, and how that can be provided to council as an option, Wood said.

“There will be a cost for the study, but there’s value also in terms of our commitment to address climate change,” he said.

Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan said the conceptual drawings for Junction East are what he had envisioned back in June of 2017.

“In my mind, I wanted two distinct areas in our city that people will look at and say, ‘wow, amazing,’” Kirwand said. “I think what you’ve captured so far is what the people in Sudbury want, something they feel proud of, where they know this facility is as good as any you’re going to find in Ontario. 

“It is befitting of a city that is the largest city in both central and Northern Ontario combined. I look forward to the next steps, and I want to see what the architect can develop following further consultation, and, I think that if we stay on this track, this will be something we can all be proud of.”