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Slow progress on the KED, Place des Arts moving smoothly, councillors told

Counci gives francophone arts centre permission to use of city lease for line of credit
The site of the future Place des Arts — at the corner of Elgin and Larch streets north of Medina Lane in downtown Sudbury — is seen at the end of August. (File)

The city's big projects are moving forward, albeit at an uneven pace, city council was told Tuesday in the first major update since the spring.

Ian Wood, the city manager overseeing the projects, said plans for the Kingsway Entertainment District, the new library and art gallery and the Place des Arts have all progressed over the summer.

“We believe we are building positive momentum for all the projects,” Wood said.

A case management conference took place in August, the latest step in hearing the appeals of the planning approvals for the KED.

Wood said the city was successful in getting six issues struck from the planning appeals – out of 19 – and a decision on their motion to have one of the appeals – from the Minnow Lake group – struck entirely is expected this fall. A hearing to actually deal with the appeals is set for May 2020.

The partnerships between the city, Gateway Casinos and developer Dario Zulich “is strong and they are working actively together,” he said.

Despite the delays, he said Gateway and other partners are still “committed to the project.”

“We are concerned about the length of time for the hearing date, but we are encouraged” process is finally moving forward, Wood said.

He met with Zulich regarding his proposal to include a convention centre at the KED, but said the developer didn't have a detailed plan.

Zulich was told “that is required” for council to really consider it.

He was asked whether the hotel that is supposed to be part of the KED is in jeopardy, since Hilton was linked to the site, but is now building behind the Keg and Sandman Hotels plans to build a new facility where the Ambassador is located.

Wood replied that the Hilton behind the Keg was planned a long time ago, and that he regularly hears from others who want to build on the Kingsway. 

“This community is of strong interest to the hotel industry,” he said, adding that a business case for one at the KED is still valid.

Councillors also approved a request from the Place des Arts to use the rent-free lease for the downtown land the city is providing as collateral for a $7.5 million line of credit to pay for ongoing construction costs.

Meredith Armstrong told councillors that staff could have approved the request on their own, but wanted to be sure council knew everything that was going on.

There's no risk of the city being on the hook for the loan, Armstrong said, and the Place des Arts has the money it needs to complete the $30 million building. But because so much of the funding from the city and other levels of government is only released as construction benchmarks are hit, the group needs the line of credit to pay for ongoing work until it is reimbursed.

“It allows the work to keep rolling,” Armstrong said, adding that “this is not the same as the city co-signing a loan.”

Worst case scenario, if disaster strikes and the project runs out of money, the bank would then own the 100-year lease of the downtown property and can find a new tenant. 

On the art gallery and library, Wood said they are working with the multicultural centre and the Sudbury Theatre Centre to come to an agreement for the block of land downtown where the city wants to build.

And, with the projects eating up parking space downtown, Wood said five groups have expressed interest in building a private parking garage downtown. They will meet with them in September and “enter more detailed discussions.”

The next update on the big projects comes Nov. 12.