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Architectural firm pitches $55-million reno of Sudbury Arena

Downtown Sudbury advocates out to sway councillors on core renewal projects

With Sudbury's Kingsway Entertainment District (KED) proposal still stalled in the courts, pro-downtown advocates continue to lobby Greater Sudbury councillors on investing in urban revitalization to keep hockey and major entertainment events in the core.

Two private groups came forward this past week with some eye-popping conceptual plans to refurbish the Sudbury Community Arena and dress up a nearby 'underperforming' property.

A local architectural firm, 3rdLine.Studio, approached council with a renovation proposal for the 69-year-old facility, which houses the city's Ontario Hockey League franchise.

The firm's partners, Tim James and Angele Dmytruk, were pitching their Project Now plan as an urban renewal project and a $40 million savings for taxpayers over the proposed $100-million Kingsway arena and event centre complex for the city's east end.

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Their plan emphasized preserving and enhancing the building's heritage with updated new amenities and cosmetic improvements that would enlarge the arena footprint on the property with additions and a portico that would extend the main entrance almost to the street.

Their $55.5-million conceptual plan included a 15 per cent contingency, budgeted at more than $8.3 million.

Councillors were highly complimentary of the firm's video-enhanced design and concept, but raised a number of questions about the structural integrity of the building, some deferred maintenance, ground conditions, and the absence of a parking garage in the proposal, all likely to drive up the cost as part of any arena renovation.

Coun. Bill Leduc referred to a 2015 arena renovation study that extensive engineering studies would have been done to determine the impact of grafting new construction onto the existing building, as well as sensitive soil conditions that exist throughout the downtown.

There were also past city staff concerns registered about the arena roof needing $360,000 worth of repairs.

Coun. Al Sizer, a former arena worker, mentioned comments voiced by event promoters about the Sudbury Arena's ability to host major events due to the low-hanging steel girders and the roof height in the barn-like structure, as well as issues with loading areas, green rooms/dressing rooms, and power requirements.

Their proposal was received only as information by council.

Mayor Brian Bigger emphasized the Project Now should be viewed as an idea that the design firm would like to see developed. If council were to reverse course, drop the KED concept, and consider a retrofit to the Sudbury Arena, "there would be an entire RFP process, and we're not at that point."

To complement a new or redesigned Sudbury Arena, another group, calling themselves Le Ledo Inc., released a plan calling for a $40-million facelift of the aging Ledo Hotel, considered prime area for redevelopment in a rather blighted area of the downtown.

What that exactly the development would entail is being kept under wraps for now, but the proponents imagine a 150,000-square-foot commercial development for the building - now up for sale - on a wedge-shaped piece of property, kitty-cornered across from the Sudbury Arena.

"It could include existing residual uses, commercial uses, office, retail, (and there) could be other uses as well," said Chris Tammi, a local real estate broker, who's fronting the group.

He declined to tell who's involved with the group. Tammi said the group is not "specifically tied" to those people championing for the main hockey arena to stay downtown, but that is their preference.

"We're strong advocates for the arena downtown, whether it's a new arena or a rehabilitated arena."

Should the Kingsway event centre proceed, the city has alternative plans for the Sudbury Arena site with a conceptual plan known as The Junction, a combined library and art gallery cultural project.

A key component to the Le Ledo plan, Tammi said, is for the city to develop parking in the area to support their proposed development. The Ledo Hotel lot only has a handful of parking spaces, 30 to 40. Their development would need between 100 and 150 spaces.

Tammi said they've encountered some snags in coming to an agreement on parking spaces, among other municipal and provincial requirements associated with the development, regarding to studies and reports being prepared prior to apply for a building permit.

He did say that Le Ledo Inc. could be in a position to apply for permits within six months, contingent on the city moving ahead with its projects.

- with files from Matt Durnan,