Addressing the “elephant in the room,” Mayor Paul Lefebvre reaffirmed his commitment to maintaining a central library in the city’s downtown core.
Lefebvre made the comment during the Feb. 23 Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Area annual general meeting, held at the Sudbury Theatre Centre.
During a city council meeting earlier in the week, he had introduced a successful motion to pare the Junction East Cultural Hub down from $98.5 million to $65 million.
The project, as previously proposed, would have been built on the parking lot outside the theatre building where Lefebvre delivered his address to the business community on Thursday night.
“I want to make it clear ... that I am for a project of investing downtown when it comes to an art gallery and a library,” he said, adding that although the project’s size and scope are likely to be reduced, and there’s a potential for it to change location, it will “definitely” remain downtown.
“In any city that I go to that is an exciting, vibrant city, there’s an exciting, vibrant downtown, and a healthy downtown,” he added. “That’s what I want to have here.”
After the evening meeting wrapped up, co-chairs Kendra MacIsaac and Jeff MacIntyre told Sudbury.com they’re optimistic about what the downtown area might lend to Junction East.
“There's a lot of opportunity to make it even better,” MacIntyre said, adding that there’s a way to better integrate it with existing downtown businesses and help spur economic development.
“A shiny new building is great, but I think that we can all appreciate that there are locations downtown that are either empty or underutilized,” MacIsaac said. “I think it's being more environmentally conscious of looking at the space that is already somewhat developed and repurposing it to be better used.”
The annual general meeting saw the board set the stage for the year, including approving a budget of $700,000 comprising a $630,000 members levy and $70,000 surplus from last year.
Included in this year’s plans are a series of summer events and the potential for a Welcoming Streets program, similar to the one hosted in Guelph. The program would employ two outreach workers who would work to create personal relationships with the vulnerable population downtown and “connect the dots” for their needs.
“This program is a concept and we’re really hoping to bring it to fruition over this next term with some funding opportunities,” MacIsaac said, noting they currently have some irons in the fire for funding.
The patio program is slated to continue, which MacIntyre credited as keeping the streets looking “much more vibrant and exciting in the downtown all summer long.”
During her presentation to the board, city Economic Development director Meredith Armstrong said, “We’ve committed to patios never going away,” which elicited applause from the crowd.
The Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Area’s board includes co-chairs MacIsaac and MacIntyre, and fellow members Erin Danyliw, Bobbi Deisinger, Dan Guillemette, Geoff McCausland, Chris Tammi, Wendy Watson, Dario Zulich and Tessa Balaz. They also have two city council members on the board, including Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier and Ward 7 Coun. Natalie Labbée.
The Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Area includes a membership of more than 90 property owners and 400 business owners that own or lease property within the city’s downtown core. Their mandate dictates they are “dedicated to the growth of downtown through policy development, advocacy, special events and economic development.”
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.