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Kirwan: We can’t afford not to build KED, Junction East

The Junction East Cultural Campus and the Kingsway Entertainment District are both critical elements of Sudbury's future, Ward 5 councillor argues

Some people are wondering why councillors are not talking about the increase in price for the Junction East project. 

I can only speak for myself, as councillor for Ward 5, but I can say with certainty that I have noticed the price and I know that my colleagues on council have also noticed. 

I wish that the project could be done with less of an investment, but I also know that the price is consistent with what city council expected from this spectacular facility.

The Junction East Cultural Campus includes the Sudbury Art Gallery, the Sudbury Public Library, the Sudbury Multicultural Centre (editor’s note: Sudbury Multicultural and Folk Arts Association) and the Sudbury Theatre Centre. 

It will be part of a critical downtown mass that will include Place des Arts, the Laurentian School of Architecture, the YMCA Centre for Life / Parkside Centre, the revitalized Tom Davies Square Courtyard, Memorial Park and several other developments that will be coming in the future. 

I personally hoped that we could create a destination centre where people will travel, either locally or as tourists, just to see the revitalization of our new downtown. I wish we could do it for less than $93 million, but what we are creating is a work of art itself. 

It is not a "box on a lot", but rather an iconic architectural creation that is well worth the investment.

The Kingsway Entertainment District is our second large transformational project. The arena/event centre that we are going to build is likely to cost close to $100 million as well. But the KED is going to create a critical mass that will include a state-of-the-art arena/event centre owned by the city; the largest hotel and convention center in the city, owned by Genesis Hospitality; a Starlight Gateway Casino, and; the Festival Square, which will host numerous community events each year.

The KED will soon be surrounded by more commercial development as other companies seek to be part of this amazing critical mass. This expanded development will generate millions of dollars of new revenue for the city in the form of commercial taxation and increased share of revenue from the Casino.

There will never be a better time for us to invest in these two growth areas. The cost is only going to get higher, and we need to do this now for the future of our city. We are the 13th largest city by population in all of Ontario. We are the largest city in central and northern Ontario. Our population growth of 2.8 per cent during the most recent census period was greater than the City of Toronto. We are in a position to become a magnet for the North.

Because of all this, we need to courage to go ahead with both the Junction East Cultural Centre and with the KED. We can't afford not to move forward with both projects. This is the tipping point of our future and we need to take advantage of the opportunity.

I have confidence in our staff. They will develop a financial plan that will work for us. When both projects are completed in 2025, we will launch into a future that many of our ancestors could only dream of. We will never have another opportunity like this.

I can assure you that all councillors recognize the increase in cost of the Junction East Cultural Campus. In my opinion,this is something that we can afford, but more importantly, it is an opportunity that we cannot afford to lose. The cost to future generations living in our city of not moving forward will be much greater.

Robert Kirwan is the Greater Sudbury city councillor for Ward 5.