Jeff MacIntyre was visibly upset as he faced reporters outside of council chambers following the defeat of the downtown event centre option and council's approval of the Kingsway site.
The chair of the Downtown Sudbury BIA, who for months has lobbied both in the public forum and behind the scenes in favour of a downtown event centre, was angered by the outcome.
“We've bet on one developer over our entire downtown, over hundreds of business owners who invest year over year based on a promise that we're going to reinvest in them,” MacIntyre said to reporters outside council chambers following a 10-2 vote in favour of the Kingsway site. “That's what happened tonight.”
For much of the lead-up to tonight's pivotal vote, MacIntyre consistently touted the city's Downtown Master Plan — which staunchly advocates for a downtown facility — as a stable of his argument.
“It's disappointing,” he said. “We have an official plan, the Downtown Master Plan. Hundreds of businesses in this community have invested based on that knowledge.”
Following a 6-6 vote on the downtown motion which, by virtue of a tie, was defeated, Mayor Brian Bigger attempted to amended the Kingsway motion to include a binding promise of delivery on a number of Dario Zulich's proposed True North Strong amenities.
The defeat of that amendment signaled to MacIntyre a double-standard.
“When we got to the point where we said 'are we going to hold that developer accountable?', the two councilors that were strongest in favour of (Zulich) weren't willing to see that guy stand up for what he said,” MacIntyre said. “They weren't willing to put his money on the line but they were damn willing to put downtown's money on the line and the City of Greater Sudbury's money on the line.”
For all of his frustrations over the outcome, MacIntyre accepted the decision. But while many councilors who backed the Kingsway bid expressed their support for continued investment in the downtown which a new art gallery, library and Synergy Centre, MacIntyre seemed to take that with a grain of salt.
“There were a lot of promises made tonight to the downtown to make up for what's been taken out,” he said. “If you looked around at the number of youth in red shirts here tonight who support the downtown, and you see the look of disappointment on their faces — they care about downtown but they care about Greater Sudbury. Council has a long way to go to make that back up.”
So, how big of a blow has the downtown suffered tonight? MacIntyre said tonight's decision and the often vicious debate leading up to it is a vote of confidence against those who have been leading a revival of the downtown in recent times.
“This is going to slow us down,” he said. “Downtown has had a massive comeback in the last 10 to 15 years. The comments and the ridiculousness that has been going on online — that's from people who obviously do not come downtown.”
It was difficult to gauge which camp the majority of onlookers at tonight's proceedings fell into, but there was a noticeably vocal contingent of downtown supporters in attendance. Throughout the night, several rounds of applause or heckling were met with calls of order.
In one instance, Deputy Mayor and Ward 12 councilor Jocelyn Landry-Altman, then briefly chairing the meeting, threatened to clear the chamber after one downtown supporter yelled “you better know what you're doing.”
As for a recently floated proposal to redevelop the existing arena into an arts centre, MacIntyre was again cautiously optimistic.
“You say that you're taking (the arena) away and you're going to turn it into an arts and culture centre, you better deliver on that tomorrow,” he said.