The historic Ledo Hotel in downtown Sudbury is slated to change hands next month, with a North Bay-based group of investors slated to invest $5 million toward affordable housing.
“It just happened,” Stephane Roy told Sudbury.com. “I like the Ledo because I can see the project, as I have one in North Bay that’s similar.”
Joined by two silent investors, Roy said that he knows the building’s current owner, George Soule, who had expressed interest in selling the building.
The 70-year-old building has a storied past, and has already served the community as low-income housing under Soule’s ownership, until a small fire displaced residents in 2020.
Numerous safety issues were discovered at the time, which sealed the building’s fate and has resulted in it remaining vacant to today, with its main floor largely gutted.
Earlier this year, Soule expressed interest in resuscitating the building, at which time he stated that the building’s degradation was a slow process brought on by the increasing prevalence of squatters. By the time the building was shut down, he said he was still renting out approximately 12 units, eight of which to clients who were still paying rent. Another 20 to 30 squatters had also taken residence.
Reflecting on the building’s potential this week, Soule told Sudbury.com that there’s still a real need for affordable housing, “with the proper security, the proper police help.”
Roy plans on installing a full-time superintendent to serve as the building’s “guard dog,” will have security cameras running 24/7 and that rules will be strictly enforced to ensure everyone has a positive experience living at the building.
“I understand that a lot of these people are short-term,” he said. “And it’s OK. For me, this project is a stepping stone for a lot of people.”
After taking ownership of the building on June 15, Roy plans on having construction begin right away to repair the building’s electrical and plumbing systems, as well as its sprinkler systems and whatever else it needs to meet safety standards.
New drywall, doors, windows, a new roof and heating system will all need to be installed as well.
“Phase one is the big one because all the guts of the building needs to be done,” he said, adding that he hopes to have the first batch of 26 units on the building’s top two floors filled by the end of the year.
Another dozen units on the main floor would be renovated and opened next year, while the basement is intended to be made available for a local non-profit organization.
“It’s quite ambitious,” Roy said of the plan.
Although the building is a stone’s throw away from Junction East, a proposed $93.2-million municipal library/art gallery building, Roy said that his decision to purchase the Ledo Hotel building was independent of the project.
“As we were talking about the project, it was encouraging that there’s a movement,” he said. “It’s not like we wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t happening, but it gives us encouragement to know that area is being revitalized and the city is behind this development.”
Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier is that area’s representative on city council, and said that more residential downtown is something that’s been long sought after.
Although this is a private investment and the city is not involved in any official capacity at this stage, he said it’s something that is “certainly encouraged and welcome.”
“Any new housing in the urban core is welcome,” he said. “Affordable housing is clearly demonstrated to be a need in the community across the full community regardless of where it is.”
On that front, Cormier said that he anticipates seeing the Junction East project, if approved by city council, attracting further investment to the city’s downtown core.
“Where we’ve seen investment like this at a government level, there is a rejuvenation effect that happens, there’s an assessment base that happens, there’s new development that happens,” he said. “It’s a longstanding model that works. … If we’re not unwilling to invest in ourselves, how can we expect others to invest in us?”
“Excited” to get rolling on the Ledo Hotel building’s redevelopment, Roy said that they have additional long-term plans for not only the building but also its adjoining parking lot.
“We’re hoping to build more affordable housing units, just have that whole block a pillar for helping people move forward, and we’re even willing to accommodate office space for non-profits and stuff like that.”
Although this development is private in nature, Roy said that the investment group plans on applying for grants and incentives through the city’s Community Improvement and Incentive Programs.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.