The proposed Junction East structure is planned as being “somewhere that you want to bring your family, your friends, people who visit Sudbury for the first time.”
So described Toronto-based WZMH Architects principal Nicola Casciato during Tuesday night’s special city council meeting, at which he offered the city’s elected officials a virtual walkthrough of the proposed library/art gallery building his team has designed.
It’s about “building a collective memory,” he said of the structure, adding that similar to Science North, it’s hoped that visitors leave the site remembering not only whatever activity they took part in, but also memories of the building itself.
Joined by building stakeholders who each made their case for city council forging ahead with the project, Casciato offered city councillors a virtual walkthrough of the proposed building, providing them with their first in-depth rundown of the project in its current incarnation.
During the meeting, he was greeted by a largely celebratory atmosphere around council chambers, whose members were excited to see the design more than six years after the project was first proposed.
Although Tuesday’s meeting also touched upon the costs associated with Junction East, which have doubled to approximately $93.2 million including contingencies, the majority of this week’s meeting centered on the possibilities ahead with Junction East.
“We’re worth this – we’re worthy,” Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier said. “It’s hard not to get excited when we see the images — it’s hard not to get excited when we see the potential.”
The project as proposed on Tuesday consists of a 104,000-square-foot, four-storey building to be constructed south of the Sudbury Theatre Centre on what is currently a parking lot. A walking path adorned by public art on the side of the STC building would stretch the length between the two buildings.
Although these two buildings aren’t connected, Casciato said their close proximity is intended to help create a “cultural campus” similar to a post-secondary institution, with the space between them offering pedestrian access from Paris Street to its Shaughnessy Street entrance.
Although its east-facing Paris Street facade has been designed to impress passersby travelling down that major thoroughfare over the Bridge of Nations and offer a “very strong presence,” its west-facing Shaughnessy Street side has been designed as the primary pedestrian access point.
“We’ve pushed the building back from Shaugnessy to create more of a plaza in front of the building,” Casciato said, noting that there’s room for trees, a seating area and gathering space in front of the building.
Large windows between vertical pillars face Shaughnessy Street, which Casciato described as “the most transparent facade, the most welcoming facade. We want visitors to feel welcome, and we want visitors to be able to navigate the building before they enter it.”
The main floor enters into what is called a “city living room,” which is its main lobby area and is represented by all three user groups. To the right is an Art Gallery of Sudbury retail store, and straight ahead is a room for the Sudbury Multicultural and Folk Arts Association.
Maker space and multi-purpose rooms accompany the area as part of its many library program features, with public access computers at the back of the main floor looking onto Paris Street.
To the left is a library market place consisting of a service desk, behind which is an inclined walkway that leads to the second floor.
Seating, bookshelves, a meeting room and other library amenities fill out the second floor. The third floor only partially covers the length of the building, with its eastern side open and overlooking the second floor’s children’s library area. The third floor is intended as a quieter space, complete with a local history area, quiet study rooms and collaborative spaces.
The fourth floor is dedicated to the Art Gallery of Sudbury, complete with various gallery spaces and other amenities. A family art studio and multi-purpose room open onto a roof terrace, which allows for activities to take place indoors and out, and space for a small roof garden has been allotted to overlook the Shaughnessy Street courtyard.
Baked into the $93.2-million price tag is the acquisition of land across the street on the west side of Shaughnessy Street for parking.
Also factored into the cost is $4.4 million toward enhanced accessibility and $6.1 million toward enhanced sustainability efforts, which includes a net-zero carbon emissions plan.
The facility will replace the operation of three buildings, including the Greater Sudbury Public Library’s main downtown branch, the Art Gallery of Sudbury currently housed in the historic Bell Mansion and the downtown-based Sudbury Multicultural and Folk Arts Association.
Proponents from all three facilities attended Tuesday’s meeting to voice their support for Junction East, all three of whom cited their aging facilities as constraining their operations.
The Art Gallery of Sudbury is in the most immediate need of the new facility due to the province imposing accessibility requirements their historic building cannot meet. As such, they need to find an accessible space by the end of 2024.
The partners are all keen on working on projects together in their shared space, Sudbury Multicultural and Folk Arts Association president Bela Ravi said, and have “already started planning stuff even before everything’s in order and we are very excited.”
This planning includes the neighbouring Sudbury Theatre Centre, which although lacking a physical footprint within the new building will tie into its neighbour’s programming.
“That will allow these very creative and innovative groups to develop new programming, enhanced programming we’ve never seen before in our community because of the collaboration,” Mayor Brian Bigger said, adding that the facility is something that people “will be proud of and bring their family and visitors to for many years to come.”
“When a family is looking for someplace to spend a Saturday or a Sunday together, sometimes they’re looking for a variety of different activities all in the same location and that’s part of the charm of this entire collaboration and shows us the types of opportunities we have with programming as we move forward.”
Junction East was originally expected to be accompanied by Junction West, which would have consisted of a convention and performance centre alongside a private hotel, but this side of an overall project called “The Junction” stalled during the pandemic. Further sealing its fate is the fact that the $58-million in municipal funding earmarked for Junction West is slated to shift toward Junction East due to its significant cost overruns, pending city council approval.
Tuesday’s meeting was intended for information purposes only and carried no formal decisions of city council, whose members appeared fairly unified in their support for the project. Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc expressed concern related to its ballooning costs, but clarified that he’s overall supportive of what has been proposed to be an “iconic building.”
City council members are expected to vote on a project design, financial plan and operational plan during a meeting in mid-June. Following the projected timeline, a tender award and contract would be issued during the first quarter of 2023 and the building would open in spring 2025.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs from Sudbury.com.