Synergy Centre, library/art gallery to evaluate downtown locations

Revitalizing the downtown was top of mind, the day after Sudbury city council voted to have a new arena outside the city's core.

Proposed projects get support from councillors, 1 day after arena vote


Presentations to Sudbury city council on Wednesday had a specific, but familiar theme: revitalize the downtown.

An urgent topic, considering councillors voted to have a new arena on the Kingsway, in the eastern part of the city, rather than in the city's core, less than 24 hours earlier.

On Wednesday, councillors voted unanimously that work on the Synergy Centre and the main library/art gallery projects would continue.

That means both project groups — which have explicitly targeted downtown locations — will have help from city staff to evaluate and recommend locations, and come up with more defined business and design plans.

Synergy Centre could be downtown 'magnet'

Wendy Watson, co-chair for the Synergy Centre project, says these facilities have even more reason to go downtown, now that council has decided to commit the event centre to the Kingsway location.

"There's some energy downtown that maybe came on the heels of the [McEwen] School of Architecture, maybe it's just that millennials want to enjoy a bustling, thriving downtown," said Watson.

"But this Synergy Centre is a conference centre, a performing art space, a banquet space, and it has the ability to be a magnet for business tourists."

True North Strong's 'Music City' pitch not competition

Last week, Dario Zulich — the entrepreneur who owns the Kingsway land on which the event centre will go — announced the concept to turn the current Sudbury community arena into a music and arts centre. But Watson says she doesn't see the pitch as competition.

"He said 'it's just an idea,' and I would point out that our project report was in the public domain for the past two weeks. A lot of the elements that he proposed were in our project," Watson said.

"But it doesn't matter whose idea it is. There has been talk about a conference and performing arts centre like this for 30 years at least. It's just that it is now time for this to happen."

Sudbury, the butterfly

Sudbury's main library branch is slated for a downtown location —no matter the arena debate— since that's its jurisdiction. The new space will also include the new location for the Sudbury Art Gallery.

Regardless, chair of the Greater Sudbury Library Board, Michael Bellmore said it's an exciting time to be part of the changes.

"Sudbury's going through a re-emergence, they're like a butterfly right now, and there are some great opportunities for us to contribute to the economic impact of the downtown core," Bellmore said.

"Not only with construction and employment, but there's talk of collaboration with the art gallery about shared space that would be available for weddings, rentals, and exhibitions."

Council's decisions to allow further work on these projects will cost the city a total of $287,500.

The project groups are set to come back to council with site recommendations and more detailed work by June 2018.

City did discuss possibly expediting the process to bring that information to council by the end of this year, but that decision was put on hold for now.