With Mayor Paul Lefebvre touting it as an “historic” investment in Sudbury’s downtown core, city council voted to purchase several properties during their Oct. 24 meeting.
The move came as a surprise to onlookers, with Lefebvre explaining to Sudbury.com after the meeting, “you can’t negotiate in public.”
The affected properties are all slated to tie into the city’s downtown Events Centre project, and are all located in the two blocks to the immediate east of the Sudbury Community Arena.
City council members are expected to decide early next year whether they want to renovate the existing arena or build a new downtown events centre. Either way, Lefebvre told Sudbury.com the properties city staff have been cleared to purchase will remain relevant.
“Investing $100 million on a renovated arena ... or whatever it is ... there has to be a return on that investment,” he said. “Just doing a standalone and hoping that the private sector steps in and buys these properties and develops them will never happen.”
The goal will be to attract private ancillary enterprises to the arena’s immediate vicinity, Lefebvre said, be it a hotel, convention centre or other ventures that complement the development.
“The goal is to stimulate and create that economic hub,” Lefebvre said, adding that by purchasing these properties, the city holds the cards.
Affected properties include the following described in motions passed by city council on Oct. 24, which also stipulate they are all to be demolished:
- 151, 153 and 161 Brady Street
- 211 Shaughnessy Street
- 219-221 Shaughnessy Street and 170 Van Horne Street
- 212 Minto Street
- 212 Romanet Lane
- 222 Minto Street
These buildings include the Golden Grain Bakery, Alexandria’s Restaurant and Lounge, Old Rock Coffee, Advanced Detailers and a rooming house.
Joining municipal parking lots, the city’s impending purchase of these properties means they will soon own most of the two blocks immediately east of the Sudbury Community Arena.
The lone exception is Wacky Wings at 187 Shaughnessy St., which Lefebvre told Sudbury.com is “being discussed,” with the city’s ultimate goal being to own the entire two blocks.
Earlier this year, city council members voted to purchase the entire triangular block to the immediate south of the two blocks greenlit for purchase on Oct. 24, where the historic Ledo Hotel stands (and will soon be demolished). These properties included:
- 300 Elgin St.
- 241-243 Shaughnessy St.
- 324-326 Elgin and 247 Shaughnessy St.
The city’s total expense for these three blocks to date is $12.5 million, Lefebvre told Sudbury.com. These funds are being drawn from the remaining Events Centre pot of money (dollars borrowed for the since-cancelled Kingsway Entertainment District, which prior to these land purchases was sitting at approximately $84.8 million of the original $90 million borrowed at an interest rate of 2.416 per cent).
“I believe the time is right for us to invest in ourselves, in our future,” Lefebvre told his colleagues during their Oct. 24 meeting, congratulating them on their collective decision.
“It shows we’re serious about investing in our city, sending this message to the private sector of where we’re going next with the revitalization of our downtown.”
The city’s elected officials were near-unanimous in supporting the land purchase, with the only holdout being Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini, who either voted or abstained (which is counted as a “no” vote) from all the associated motions. Vagnini attended the meeting virtually, repeatedly interrupted proceedings and had his microphone shut off numerous times for interrupting and speaking over others.
Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier was not present.
Earlier in the day, Lefebvre delivered a speech at Tom Davies Square highlighting city council’s first year in office, which he later described as something of a primer for that evening’s land purchase vote.
“I believe that every growing, vibrant, attractive city needs a central area that provides a concentration of arts, entertainment and hospitality, where people can congregate,” Lefebvre said during his morning speech.
“The city has to do its part in its revitalization if it expects others to want to invest in it.”
Lefebvre told Sudbury.com that while some businesses may continue to operate in the buildings the city has purchased for a while, it’s the city’s goal to demolish them by the end of 2024.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.