Yes We Can 

Downtown Sudbury - Past - Present - Future  by John Lindsay 

 

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I came to Sudbury in 1965 when downtown Sudbury was like downtown Toronto with crowded sidewalks like shown below, quite a contract to the street scene 45 years later.  What happened?

A few years later when the city decided to eliminate the "amble scramble"all way walk intersections I took an 8 mm movie showing some of the downtown landmarks at that time in 1971 and just how vibrant the downtown was before the now Rainbow Centre came into existence and expansion of the New Sudbury Centre and other retail and office malls and of course the big box stores.

What happened - where did all the people go?  There are a number of opinions. My own is that many offices left the downtown for other locations and with them many of those who would frequent the downtown stores who subsequently with the loss of business left as well.  Expansion of shopping malls throughout the city and area with free parking meant that many shoppers did not have to come downtown.  New office buildings were constructed outside of the downtown. There was no residential development of any significance to increase the downtown population of those who could contribute to the downtown economy. It was the "perfect storm" that caused the "destruction" of downtown that we knew and loved and will likely never be again regardless of all the grand plans.  But the downtown can be better than it is, but "dreams" will not do it.

The Present: Considering the expansion and development of shopping malls and big box store complexes and the movement of offices and businesses to other locations the downtown has not experienced the same decline as many other cities - although there is considerable surplus office space available, few storefronts are boarded up and most business if not thriving are nevertheless managing to survive.  Many residents of Greater Sudbury almost never venture downtown except if necessary for medical or business purposes not available elsewhere.  The main complaint heard about the downtown is "there is really no place to shop and no parking - I can get anything I want with more convenience elsewhere".  The city and downtown merchants (individually and through their associations) have worked diligently over the years to try to "revive" the downtown with debatable success. The current thinking is that "institutional" development will be the restorative agent involving a convention and arts centre etc. and lately the new Laurentian School of Architecture.

The Future:  What seems to have been missing in the development equation is the need for people downtown on a more permanent basis. People living and working in the downtown. Offices being encouraged to locate in the downtown rather than elsewhere and residential property (low and medium rental income and condominium development housing). Incentives to promote this activity might well be necessary but would pay dividends in the future.  It has been estimated that a ten million dollar subsidized housing incentive investment like that provided to Laurentian University for their school of Architecture might have created housing for up to 1000 new residents downtown either in new or renovated buildings.   A new "Downtown Master Plan" an "Evolutionary Blockbuster" calls for more "institutional" development and cosmetic changes in the form of road realignments and beautification.  Little mention of increasing the amount of housing.  It is interesting to note that the plan calls for creation of 300 more parking spaces, only 100 more than those being taken away by the new school of Architecture.  I leave you to consider how likely this plan will "save" downtown over the next ten years. I

Current Activities:  As a long time Sudbury resident and a former worker in the downtown I have a considerable interest in the community.  My most recent involvement which is documented below was the campaign to try to encourage the location of the new LU school of Architecture to a preferred location in the downtown area and not on the Market Square property.  I do not own property or operate a business in the downtown or have any relationship with any downtown property owners.  I likewise have no fiscal connection with the Market Square vendors, nor do I have any affiliation with Laurentian University.  As chair of the "Best Option" committee I was disappointed that none of the concerns or options presented were responded to in any manner, but was pleased that councillors Kett and Caldarelli voted to not support the motion to sell the market property and expressed many of the concerns that were outlined in my letter to all councillors and in the other material below.

Dear Councillor    (by e-mail Nov. 4th 2011)

Thank you for taking the time to read this, my final correspondence on this issue which has become a matter of considerable concern for many Sudburians.   

It has been a most interesting, albeit frustrating experience, in being involved, as an interested ordinary citizen and taxpayer, in the matter of the location of the new school of Architecture in downtown Sudbury and the relocation (if necessary) of Market Square.   

While I realize that downtown merchants are interested in having the school located downtown I am puzzled that having it placed on the Market Square property virtually eliminates the closest public parking spots to most of these same merchants (not to mention service providers).  And to replace these almost 200 parking places city planners have suggested building a parking garage at a more distant location (near present CPR station) at a cost five times more than the city will receive for the spaces eliminated – millions of as yet unfunded dollars.  

Most citizens are puzzled as to why the University would want to build a new school, especially for architecture on such an unattractive site next to the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway (nearby neighbors say their buildings shake anytime a train passes, not to mention the noise). Development would not begin until late 2012 to renovate a former freight shed at likely considerable cost. 

I know that most of you are aware that many residents are disturbed about the potential loss of the market building, as well as the parking.  To date city planning staff and the ad-hoc committee have not been able to present an alternative location with the amenities of the present historic site, which could well become just a memory like our former post office.  

It appears to the majority of citizens, that it would make a great deal of sense (dollars and common) to locate the new school on the Ledo Hotel property lot and a portion of Elgin Street in a more visible prominent area, close to TD Square, the “arts” district, Memorial Park etc.  This location would actually add parking.  The cost compared to the market property would likely be less than half and development could begin shortly.  I am told that there is a “master plan” (which the public has not seen as yet) that foresees other uses for this property and others nearby.  However, these plans also involve unfunded dollars.  

Finally I would quote from the city’s own value statement the responsibility to “manage the resources in our trust, efficiently, responsibly and effectively” in the hope that any decision you may make with respect to this matter will reflect that principle.   

Sincerely,  

John Lindsay

Chair, Better Option Committee – www.yessudbury.ca  705-525-7526   705-920-5177
 

Financial and Practical Considerations with respect to value of parking:

The video below shows the close to 200 parking spaces available at Market Square that would be lost if this property is sold to Laurentian University.  There is no other public parking space of this size close to downtown or any area that could be developed to replace these lost spaces.  The only option suggested by the city is a parking garage located further from the centre of downtown.  This video and the text below explain the financial implications for this proposed action.  Please feel free to share with your friends and others concerned.

Financial Considerations with respect to value of parking:

As with anything the more scarce the item the more that it is worth, which is something that needs to be taken into serious consideration with respect to downtown parking. The city (planning) has said there are 192 parking spaces at Market Square. Just how much are they worth? If they were to be replaced by a parking garage, as
planning has suggested, the cost would, based on $30,000 for each space (the current projected cost) be over five and a half million dollars ($5,760,000 to be exact, not to mention the cost of the land on which to erect the parking garage). Since there is no more land on which to put parking downtown, as conveniently located as the market square parking, this means that the parking area at market square is worth much more than the simple appraised value of the land. This may be the Achilles heel in this whole process. Is Laurentian prepared to pay the value of replacing these parking spots with a parking garage located as close to downtown as the market property, since there is no other vacant land nearby. It is a matter of, as they say in real estate, location, location, location, and as someone else also said "they are not making any more land".

Taking all of this into consideration the actual value of the Market property now becomes closer to $8,000,000, including two million for the market building itself, which may also be undervalued. Is the city prepared to sell this piece of property for less than its real worth, considering the determined replacement value? Are we prepared have the taxpayer pay for replacement parking at a far higher cost than what we are about to consider receiving for present parking?  It is suggested that you let your councillor and the mayor know of your feelings with respect to this matter. 

Practical Considerations with respect to the value of market square parking

Humans are creatures that like to expend the smallest amount of effort at the least cost for the greatest gain. Therefore the popularity of mall parking which is free and generally close to shopping.  Downtown parking is often neither inexpensive or conveniently close to shopping.  One notable exception to this in downtown Sudbury is the currently free two hour parking at Market Square (almost always fully utilized).  But just how convenient, especially when compared to what is planned to replace this area, a 400 space parking garage near the old CPR station on Elgin Street?   A simple test was conducted on the same day walking at the same pace from both locations to the corner of Larch and Durham (which many would consider the centre point of the downtown business and shopping area).  The time taken to walk from the mid point of the Market Square parking area to this corner was two minutes and thirty three seconds (2.33). The time from the proposed parking garage at street level was six minutes and twenty seven seconds (6.27) or almost two and half times and 4 minutes longer. It might be asked just how popular is this new parking venue going to be in creating more business for downtown merchants and service providers. And to be able to pay for this new structure parking rates we are told that parking rates are going to have to be increased.  I think "shooting yourself in the foot" is the best expression one can use when contemplating this latest folly.    

Market Vendors "Open Letter" to City Council, LU and Media

Open Letter To: City Council, Laurentian University and the Community 

From:  Market Vendors – Sudbury Market Square  

Setting the Record Straight:   Recommendation to Resolve Market/LU School Location Issue: 

There have been various reports in the media and elsewhere that the vendors at Market Square are not pleased with the facility, find it physically lacking and would even prefer a different structure and location.   These reports are not correct and this letter is intended to "set the record straight" and to suggest a process to resolve the current matter with respect to location of the market and the new LU school of architecture. 

The market is fine but the same cannot be said for the present and past management of the facility that has not allowed the market to realize its full potential

While the market has accomplished three of its original purposes to be "an incubator for small business start up, a public market and downtown landmark" it is not yet quite the "cultural showcase" that was envisaged as a community centre for various groups and activities.  This is still possible with a committed management team which we believe should be market vendor and citizen based with city support. The market building is an historic site centrally located and well suited to our needs with ample parking on site which during market days and at all other times is filled to overflowing.  There could always be improvements as with any facility, but no need as some have said "to throw the baby out with the bathwater".   

Compared to market facilities in other cities of similar size and those both larger and smaller than ours we feel that we are very fortunate, and do not believe that moving to another location and another facility would serve us as well as where we are presently located.   

We the undersigned representing the majority of vendors at Sudbury Market Square, present the following recommendation for an independent panel to fully examine the matter of market and LU school of Architecture location and we would accept their findings on the matter as we would also hope City Council would as well.  

Recommended that a panel of independent, unbiased citizens, one from each city ward, chosen by city councillors, and with city clerical support and facilities, be given a broad mandate and sufficient time to conduct a thorough review with respect to the location/relocation of both market square and the proposed new LU school of Architecture in downtown Sudbury.  The panel to have access to all relevant material and to all parties concerned.  The final report to be presented to City Council and to be made public.      

Signed by Market Vendors – Oct. 30th 2011

Dollar Value Financial Considerations with respect to parking:

As with anything the more scarce the item the more that it is worth, which is something that needs to be taken into serious consideration with respect to downtown parking. The city (planning) has said there are 192 parking spaces at Market Square. Just how much are they worth? If they were to be replaced by a parking garage, as
planning has suggested, the cost would, based on $30,000 for each space (the current projected cost) be over five and a half million dollars ($5,760,000 to be exact, not to mention the cost of the land on which to erect the parking garage). Since there is no more land on which to put parking downtown, as conveniently located as the market square parking, this means that the parking area at market square is worth much more than the simple appraised value of the land. This may be the Achilles heel in this whole process. Is Laurentian prepared to pay the value of replacing these parking spots with a parking garage located as close to downtown as the market property, since there is no other vacant land nearby. It is a matter of, as they say in real estate, location, location, location, and as someone else also said "they are not making any more land".

Taking all of this into consideration the actual value of the Market property now becomes closer to $8,000,000, including two million for the market building itself, which may also be undervalued. Is the city prepared to sell this piece of property for less than its real worth, considering the determined replacement value? Are we prepared have the taxpayer pay for replacement parking at a far higher cost than what we are about to consider receiving for present parking?  It is suggested that you let your councillor and the mayor know of your feelings with respect to this matter. 

Background:  In 2001 the city converted an old CPR railway freight shed into the downtown farmers market at a considerable cost (see history report below). The market, like many in communities across Canada, is open two days per week during spring, summer and fall.  Besides farm products sold in the open, but covered outside area, a number of small business people have set up shop inside the facility.  There is some question whether the market has realized its full potential.  

For more history on the market from the beginning click here.

City council in an effort to revitalize the downtown committed a million dollars a year for ten years to bring to downtown a School of Architecture to be part of Laurentian University with eventually 400 students and 40 staff.  This, it is said, would be a catalyst for further development.  Laurentain University, after an apparent exhaustive search of available sites, chose the Market property as the preferred location for the new school.  There was no other "suitable" choice. 

It quickly became apparent that the public lacked confidence in the proposal and financing even though the University has offered up to 3 million dollars for the site and market relocation. The city says it is committed to both the Market and the new school and wants to see a "win-win" solution, and council has given approval in principle but still wants more assurances before a final decision.  

In the meantime a group "Citizens for the Best Option" have come forward with a solution that they say could satisfy all parties, keeping the market and parking area while locating the school to another downtown location at less cost.  We ask you to consider carefully this proposal and if you agree with this plan to contact your councillor and/or the Mayor directly on this matter.  Information on the name of your councillor, phone number and e-mail address can be obtained from the city website or by calling 311.

A media conference took place at Market Square and members of the public also attended.  The presentation can be viewed below followed with more detailed explanation and photos.  Please share with others you feel might be interested

 

Citizens committee for "Best Option" location for School of Architecture.  Please read and provide your opinion.

A "best option" location would satisfy all parties to the greatest degree possible.  This would include Laurentian University, downtown merchants, market vendors, city council and most importantly the citizens of The City of Greater Sudbury.

The Market location has several drawbacks not the least of which is the loss of a significant number of heavily used parking spaces on the property

The dislocation of the market facility is another consideration and either its incorporation into the design of the school or location to another site of equal or better value is problematic in design and cost.  Location of the school itself in close proximity to the rail line has raised esthetic and practical concerns.

Also the total cost to LU of the property and market relocation of not less than three million dollars is significant.  

The Best Option: The Ledo Block and portion of Elgin Street:   

The "best option" would be the use of the "Ledo block" which includes the hotel two other (surplus) buildings and parking areas and a portion of Elgin Street which was once a major street when it connected to a former bridge across the railway yards but is now somewhat redundant.

This location is better in several ways, not the least of which is the location with the new school building being further from the rail line.  There would be no loss of parking space. The cost to LU for the property would likely be less than half. The location is in the "arts" district close to entertainment, restaurants, the arena, TD square, Memorial park, the old CPR station and the main downtown area.  It would be prominently visible from the Bridge of Nations, and would improve and enhance the neighborhood.  

The hotel itself has four levels, the first two which are vacant and currently used for storage – total about 7,000 square feet

The third and fourth levels currently contain rooms (25) with baths.  Altogether the building contains approx 14,000 square feet.  With renovations the building could be put to temporary use or incorporated in the final school design.  The project could proceed within months.

 Further details follow from the original proposal by Gord Drysdale with site “drawings”. 

In the site selection process prior to the submission of my proposal to utilize the "expanded" Ledo block as a site candidate, I assume there was no consideration for this location based on the smaller original block size. I have attached my concept sketches of the expanded block and the potential to meet many of the design criteria put forth on the original site evaluation 

Firstly, this location is still downtown and in the same proximity to everything advantaged from the Market Square site. It exceeds the minimum building square footage of 75,000 square feet by providing approximately 94,000 square feet on footprint.  If the CPR parking east of Shaugnessy street is included the property is actually larger than the Market square property as shown on the property ouline overlays on the included photo. With the realignment of Elgin Street, as illustrated, an additional site can be created to accommodate a student residence building near site or a low rental apartment block. The building construction can be restricted to an area not including CPR land, however, CPR land may be leased for parking and subsidized or rendered profitable with parking fees. There is also an extra parking area created under the Paris Street bridge with the realignment of Elgin Street.  The traffic lights at Minto could remain to provide controlled entrance to on site parking

The most obvious advantage of this location is the strategic visual and emotional effect it will have at the entry point into the downtown core via Paris Street and Brady Street. The beauty of new, stunning and long overdue architecture and greenscaping at this location will be a source of municipal pride. 

A total change in the social dynamic of this area will be initiated with the new architecture and presence of a larger population, including staff and students to benefit all downtown business.  

The Ledo hotel may or may not be incorporated into the final design, but leaving it intact with interior renovations will not jeopardize the total square footage of 75,000 needed for the School. Of course the entire block could be leveled and a fresh start to design could begin almost immediately, construction to follow in due course, without need for adapting to an existing building.  There are a variety of options available which makes this site even more attractive.  The conceptual drawing below shows just one possibility.

Read full report:  Positives and Negatives of Both Locations here.

Read media package report distributed with above report here.

You comments are welcome – send to johnl.fdi@gmail.com 

 

Below is just one of many letters to local papers that summarizes citizen frustration and the general substance was presented in person by the writer at the media conference on Oct. 23rd at Market Square.. 

For months, I have discussed the issue of saving Market Square with everyone I meet over the course of a day.

Since I have recently returned to Sudbury after many years away, I' ve been curious to determine what role Sudburians see themselves taking in challenging or supporting the plans that city planner Jason Ferrigan, Laurentian University President Dominic Giroux and architect Blaine Nicholls have for forcing change on our city.

It was disturbing for me to repeatedly hear the Sudbury phrase: "It' s a done deal" -- even before the steering committee made its emotionally manipulative site choice presentation to city council.

I was puzzled at how the people of this city could feel so passionately about an issue and yet seem so determined to passively accept a course of action that the large majority of people are strongly opposed to.

Yet I heard it over and over: "It' s a done deal" and every variant on the theme " C' est un fait accompli"; "The deal is already in the works"; "There is nothing we can do"; "The powers that be have decided," etc.

I wondered what I was missing. Is this apathy? I considered that maybe as people who have lived away, my family cares more about quality-of-life issues than the people who have spent their entire lives here.

Or perhaps Sudburians may be unaware that civic progress comes with a responsibility to getinvolved to help ensure the change the community wants.

But those ideas were proved incorrect to me by the numbers of people who expressed strong and passionate opinions for the need for the market and sensible clear-headed thoughts on why city planning is currently such a mess in Sudbury.

Why, I wondered, if the citizens of Sudbury care so much about civic issues and have formed community action networks and other citizens' groups to improve the quality of life throughout the region, don't I see more people going out to the meetings to protest the loss of the market?

I attended the planning committee's downtown improvement plan meeting. I observed the lip service being paid to community input by the planning department. I attended the Laurentian University steering committee's presentation to city council. I was aghast as Nicholls stated that the rail lands were the heart of the downtown and that a school of architecture should ideally have three floors -- as if there is some sort of architectural actuarial table to consult regarding these structures.

Veiled threats were presented that implied that if city council dared to take the time to consider other options, the city would lose the school altogether.

I attended the planning department's subsequent "consultation" meeting. This amounted to 10- minute sketches of other places that the market could be shunted off to -- not for a moment was there any discussion and the planners failed to identify themselves. It had the atmosphere of a self-congratulatory cocktail party for the "done deal" of the planning and business council members.

Input as to how the city could be better represented by placing the school elsewhere was not welcomed and there was no public forum presented.

Again, I was left with more questions than answers: Since when did cities employ planning departments to present campaigns on behalf of power brokers, such as university presidents and business lobbies? Why would the planning committee be playing spin doctor?

Monday night, I watched as businessman after businessman was invited up to the podium to present, unchallenged, their views on why the Market Square should disappear and be subsumed by a new school.

I listened as a Laurentian economics professor presented a Milton Friedmanstyle discussion of public markets --how could one ever explain the joys of community involvement and the deeper economic connections of a local market to him?

If you had told me a year ago that I would witness such a cynical abuse of the democratic process, where a really important meeting with great economic and social impact for Greater Sudbury would happen immediately at the end of a working day, with the speakers list heavily stacked in favour of the power brokers -- a meeting where the senior planner stands up and clearly throws his weight behind those power brokers, thereby placing even more pressure to conform on the council --I would not have believed you.

Don Drysdale presented a sensible and lucid planning proposal with detailed traffic flow and land management suggestions.

The owner of the Ledo Hotel openly declared his self interest and offered to sell the city his hotel, an offer that came with the interesting suggestion to close part of the road in front of the building in order to better accommodate the school.

Hopefully, some of the voices of reason with alternative proposals and suggestions were not placed too late into the hearing process to be heard effectively. But I fear for the worst-case outcome, where the biggest loser is the democratic process.

A civil society includes the input of the citizens who compose that society. When citizens feel that their input will be ignored, they cease to participate in democracy. There is no more serious an illness for any society.

It is now up to our elected representatives to determine if they are able to see beyond the manipulation and plan a sensible course of action for the city.

I believe it is also council's responsibility to rein in the planning department and restore some sense of citizen participation and democratic balance to the function of this city. We can have healthy development and we can have a healthy civic democracy with full public participation, but our elected officials must have the courage to represent us.

Timothy Pella Greater Sudbury

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