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Group behind proposed $40M downtown development say parking is a roadblock

Le Ledo Inc. won’t divulge intended uses for proposed development but say it ‘could be’ residential, commercial, retail or office space, nor will they say who is behind the group
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An unnamed group of developers are proposing a $40 million redevelopment of the property where the Ledo Hotel now sits. (Supplied)

Plans for a $40-million transformation of the old Ledo Hotel in downtown Sudbury was released earlier this week by private sector group, Le Ledo Inc.

The plans have been in the works for close to a year now and will reimagine the entire property with a 150,000-square-foot commercial development in Sudbury’s south section of the Junction district with a combination of existing uses and others allowable within the C-6 commercial zoning.

"The Ledo site has been for sale for some time and essentially it came about once the decision was made more formally around the library and art gallery project moving forward on Shaughnessy Street around this time last year," said Chris Tammi, a Sudbury real estate broker and Le Ledo spokesperson.

"We saw the area and there's some underperforming properties, including the Ledo property, that are in need of some love and some investment. With the city committing to pony up $50 - $60 million to build the library, art gallery, we saw an opportunity for some uplift in the neighbourhood."

Tammi said that the property where the Ledo sits offers the biggest development opportunity in the area, due to the large lot on which the Ledo sits. He wouldn’t disclose who exactly is behind Le Ledo Inc. or who is involved with the partnership, but did say the city is not a funded partner.

"I can tell you that they're 100-per-cent a stakeholder in the project, because we need them to move forward on what they've said they're moving forward on in the neighbourhood," said Tammi. 

"If the library-art gallery project doesn't move forward, or if they do move forward on the decision to move the arena or if they don't agree to update services and other things that have to be done in the neighbourhood, then it's a lot less likely that a project like this would happen."

While not specifically tied to Sudbury Community Arena, Tammi said that the people behind Le Ledo Inc. are strong advocates for keeping the arena downtown.

"Our expectation is that the city would've already followed the Downtown Master Plan, which called for the arena/events centre to be downtown," said Tammi.

"We're strong advocates for the arena staying downtown, whether it's a new arena or a rehabilitated arena. That being said, there's a decision that's been made that may come together with this Kingsway project and if that's what happens, what we'd hope is that there would be some bigger picture visions around how the arena structure could be repurposed in an economically viable way."

A key factor in developing the Le Ledo plan is that the group is expecting the city to develop parking in the area to support its proposed Ledo development.

"That's definitely something that we're expecting,” Tammi said. “We've actually sent proposals through economic development and through other mediums. We have not been able to get any formal position from the city on whether they would enter into a long-term agreement for use of parking.

"I could tell you 100 per cent if that's not something that we can come to an agreement on, there's no project here that's going to make any sense."

The city's Junction project with the library and art gallery could amount to a loss of as many as 150 parking spots in the downtown, and the current Le Ledo site plan will not accommodate the parking that will be needed, Tammi said.

"There is a component of a few spaces, but it's not even worth mentioning. The plan as of now would have covered parking of 12 to 15 spaces," said Tammi.

"Right now, the Ledo property probably has 30 or 40 spaces, but our request from the city was to enter into a long-term agreement for anywhere from 100 to 150 parking spaces. We've offered to pay the posted monthly rate, plus a premium and to sign a long-term lease on those spaces, but they have not agreed to committing to that. 

“They've also made it clear that there's no formal plan to build a parking structure in the Junction."

In addition to having hit a roadblock of sorts with regards to coming to an agreement on parking spaces, Tammi said there have been challenges on the development side of things as a whole. Namely, that provincial and municipal requirements with new builds add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the final cost of new developments.

"I think developing in any city can be challenging and some of it is provincial regulations that the planning department needs to follow. However we do find, and this is not specifically for our project this is for many projects, but we do find that at times the culture can be one that leads to more reasons why things can't happen versus ways that things can happen," said Tammi.

"I don't want to go through the specific list of what they've asked for on this project because I think many of those items they've asked for on every potential project, but some of the items on the list, to be frank, were kind of laughable. There were things that architects in Toronto were shocked that they were asking."

Costs associated with even getting a potential project to the stage of getting the city's approval can be quite cumbersome as well, explained Tammi, who says that developers may be required to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on studies and reports before they're even allowed to apply for a building permit.

"When projects like this are proposed, the answers you get from economic development are always positive — they think it's great, they want to see the jobs, they want to see people spending money, they want the tax base to grow — but then the execution of it becomes, 'you should do this as well, have you thought of this, we have to upgrade the city's streetscape in this case’," said Tammi.

"Why would the city not already be updating the streetscape if they're going to be spending $60 million across the street?"

The Le Ledo Inc. has not indicated what specifically would be going in the proposed development, and the intended use remains under wraps at this time until final approvals are given.

"It could include existing residential uses, commercial uses, office, retail, (there) could be other uses as well," said Tammi.

He said Le Ledo Inc. feels that they should be in the position to apply for permits in as soon as six months, but that is contingent on the city moving forward on its own projects.

"It's been a year since they put out the request for information on private sector ideas on parking in the downtown and nothing's happened," said Tammi. "We're somewhat at the mercy of the other projects and that's outside of our control. We're not going to be the guinea pig to go ahead and do this and hope it works out."