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Hope is expressed that Laurentian University greenspace will not be 'monetized' as part of financial restructuring

Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury says there is a value to keeping the greenspace as part of Sudbury's environmental landscape
Laurentian University 2022
Laurentian University (Len Gillis / Sudbury.Com)

The Laurentian University board of governors meeting held Feb. 11 featured an impassioned presentation from representatives of Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury. 

In a bid to ensure the protection of the Laurentian University greenspace, representatives Naomi Grant and Franco Mariotti were looking to the board of governors for a public statement that the greenspace would not be monetized under the real estate review, underway as part of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) proceedings.

The Laurentian University greenspace refers to the 231 hectares (approximately 570 acres) owned by the university, land that includes a beach, several trails used by both students and the community as well as two subwatersheds that directly impact the water quality of five lakes in the area.

The greenspace is currently under consideration by real estate advisor, Cushman and Wakefield, hired to perform a review of the real estate portfolio in July, 2021. The tenth report of the monitor, released on Jan. 24, states that Cushman and Wakefield has completed the work on the “foundation information and analysis” and that to the monitor’s understanding, is close to completing its work on the review. 

The review has taken longer than anticipated, states the monitor’s report, because the “of the complexity of issues related to Laurentian’s real estate assets as well as delays in information being provided to the Real Estate Advisor as a result of the difficulty in locating relevant information and documents, lack of institutional knowledge amongst current LU employees and competing demands on LU Personnel.”

The Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury is a grassroots organization focused on the sustainability of the Sudbury community. Grant, who is chair of the coalition, and Mariotti, a retired biologist and staff scientist at Science North, as well as a Laurentian University alumnus, each spoke to the value that the greenspace brought to the city. 

Benefits included the use of the land as a recruiting tool, not just for potential students, but for anyone looking to relocate. As well, noted Mariotti, access to it is already used as an attractant when recruiting medical professionals to the area.

They also noted the research potential for students in the areas of health, physical and outdoor education, as well as forensics, biology and other disciplines that were able to use the greenspace as ‘an outdoor laboratory,’ and one that was easily accessible. 

The greenspace is also connected with the other trails systems in Greater Sudbury, they noted, including the Lake Laurentian Conservation Area and the Trans Canada Trail, and the community itself, with much of the work to improve and maintain the area completed by volunteers and funded with public money and donations. The area attracts tourists to see the unique landscape, the two argued.

The land is also important as an environmental ecosystem. 

“We have a community energy and emissions plan, which does rely both on reducing carbon and also increasing carbon sequestration through increased regreening,” said Grant. “And maintaining the vegetated sites we do have, the natural forests we do have, I can't stress enough that all of the modeling that's been done, both for carbon emissions, but also for source water protection, stormwater management, and water and wastewater, have all relied on the fact that this area remains natural.” 

Grant said any changes to the land  “will really throw a wrench in the protection of the lake for drinking water, recreation, fishing, and then also for carbon sequestration.”

The public portion of the meeting had a large attendance due in part to a number of community members wishing to show their support for the presentation and its aims, which included several local politicians: Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas, Sudbury MPP Jamie West, Ward. 8 Coun. Al Sizer and Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh**. 

In response, Chair Jeff Bangs complimented the presenters and reassured them, as well as the authors of emails and letters he described, that “they are being taken seriously.” 

“They're being considered in our overall decision making that we're going to be doing now, and in the weeks and months ahead,” said Bangs. He complimented them on their work, noting his own involvement in political and grassroots campaigns. “You're passionate about something that is very, very important to this community. And your messages are heard loud and clear. So thank you to Naomi and Franco and all the community members who joined us today, who have a passionate sense of pride in the green spaces of Laurentian.”

The monitor's report also notes a number of calls and emails regarding the real estate review. “The monitor notes that it continues to receive numerous calls and emails from stakeholders expressing views in respect of whether LU should divest or take steps with respect to any real estate,” the Jan. 24 report states. “The monitor notes that the real estate advisor’s current mandate is simply to review and provide recommendations for consideration by LU and for discussion with 12 significant creditors. It is not expected that any implementation decisions will be made until there has been an opportunity for significant further discussion and consideration.”

Once these reports are finalized, states the report,  they will be reviewed by the Laurentian University Board, following which Laurentian will be in a position to engage with significant creditors regarding the next steps.

**Correction: Ward 12 Coun. Jocelyn Landry-Altman and Ward. 10 Coun. Fern Cormier were also in attendance for the presentation. regrets the error.

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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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