Place des Arts to 'accelerate' downtown redevelopment, visionary says

Stéphane Gauthier and Martin Lajeunesse have long had a vision to transform Sudbury's downtown with a Francophone arts and culture hub.

Council commits $5 million towards project and muncipal parking lot land transfer subject to conditions

An artist's conception of what Place des Arts could look like in Sudbury, Ont. (Facebook- Place Des Arts du Grand Sudbury)

Stéphane Gauthier and Martin Lajeunesse have long had a vision to transform Sudbury's downtown with a Francophone arts and culture hub.

Finally, city council is moving in their direction with a new commitment to fund $5 million towards the creation of Place des Arts. 

"It's saying yes to a lot of things. It's saying yes to beauty," Gauthier said. "This is going to be a magnificent building."

Lajeunesse called the decision "momentous."

"There's so much stuff going on downtown with the school of architecture coming to completion, the city wants to move forward on the Elgin Street Greenway, the Brewer Lofts project is moving forward," Lajeunesse said.

"So Place des Arts is one more way for council to accelerate the redevelopment of the downtown core."

Council agreed to debt finance its financial commitment towards Place des Arts on Wednesday as part of approving the 2017 budget.

$25M still needed for project

The investment comes with a number of conditions.

Place des Arts must agree to a formal reporting process to show that promised community benefits are being delivered and appoint two councillors to the project's board of directors.

Also, council's $5 million will not be released until senior levels of government and private sector contributions are confirmed. 

Place des Arts still has to raise $25 million.

"It's feasible," Gauthier said. "The talks that we've been having with other levels are very positive."
Martin Lajeunesse is one of the visionaries behind Sudbury's Place des Arts. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

A private donor campaign is expected to be launched shortly and a broad community campaign will follow to raise over $3 million, according to Lajeunesse. 

In addition to the city's financial pledge, a land transfer of a municipal parking lot at the corner of Elgin and Larch Streets is set to take place in 2018 for the project. This will result in a loss of $55,000 in parking revenue. 

Once completed, the facility requires a municipal contribution of $200,000 each year to fund ongoing operations. 

Bigger 'confident' Place des Arts will succeed 

If the project raises enough money, Gauthier said construction could start in 2018 and doors may open by 2020. 

"I'm quite confident that they will be successful," Mayor Brian Bigger said.

"This funding that we're providing will be a catalyst, a stimulus I think for further investment. Ideally, also from the public sector in our community."

Place des Arts is expected to have 50,000 square feet with a 300 seat theatre.

It is anticipated to have 850 activities and 50,000 people going through the building each year. 

Gauthier and Lajeunesse hope their centre becomes a destination that draws people to the city — "a flagship of la Francophonie."

"We're really proud of our Franco Ontarian flag that was born in Sudbury, but you don't visit a flag," Lajeunesse said. "You will visit a Place des Arts."


Olivia Stefanovich

Senior reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a senior reporter for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau based in Ottawa. She previously worked in Toronto, Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter at @CBCOlivia. Story tips welcome: