Rainbow Centre makes pitch for Sudbury library, art gallery

A private company wants to partner with the city on a new library and art gallery planned for downtown Sudbury. The owners of the Rainbow Centre say the mall and office complex is the perfect site for a new cultural hub in the core.

Location could bring 'vibrancy,' cultural hub to downtown core

An artist's rendering showing what the main branch library and Art Gallery of Sudbury could look like in the Rainbow Centre downtown. (Vista Hospitality Group )

The owners of the Rainbow Centre want to be home to Sudbury's new library and art gallery.

The city is searching for a downtown site for a multi-million-dollar replacement of the aging main branch library, and the Art Gallery of Sudbury.

Vista Hospitality Group CEO Amin Visram says his company has met with the city about moving into the downtown mall.

He says his plan would bring more people downtown on evenings and weekends, attracting more than just the regular 9 to 5 office workers who support nearby businesses.

Vista Hospitality CEO Amin Visram is proposing to the city that it put a new library and art gallery in the Rainbow Centre, instead of spending millions on a standalone building. (Erik White/CBC )

"Vibrancy can be created by having people come into the core to use the library," says Visram, "or the art gallery, which will create a ripple effect. That will bring other tenants, other uses, other people into the core."

Visram adds that those weekend and evening visitors would also find plenty of spots in the mall's parking garage.

Choosing the Rainbow Centre will save Sudbury taxpayers millions of dollars on building and operating a standalone library and art gallery, Visram says. Especially if the city takes his company up on its offer of a multi-decade lease agreement.

"Maybe far in excess of what a library and art gallery can be built for in our facility, which is already existing," he says.

Location must be 'accessible and visible'

The Art Gallery of Sudbury has long wanted to move out of the Bell Mansion, and announced in 2010 its plans to build a new $25 million landmark gallery downtown.

But after a few years of struggling to pull together the necessary public and private dollars, the gallery agreed to merge its plans with the city's dream of building a new main branch of the public library downtown, replacing the aging MacKenzie Street facility.

While in the past they were focused on a standalone building, Art Gallery of Sudbury chair Josée Forest-Niesing says they are open to any downtown site that is accessible and visible.

Josee Forest-Niesing is the Art Gallery of Sudbury chair. (Radio-Canada)

"If it means that we can take an existing building and renovate it in such a manner that we can meet all those elements, then we'd be quite happy to do that," says Forest-Niesing.

She says the plans for the building have been streamlined down to 60,000 square feet. The cost has been estimated to be between $35 and $50 million, but Forest-Niesing says the art gallery portion should be around $11 million.

Exactly where that money will come from isn't known yet, but city council will vote next week on spending $100,000 to begin the formal location search.