David Shelsted, the City of Greater Sudbury’s roads director, is a busy man these days.
Shelsted is heading up the two biggest construction projects this city has seen in generations: the $88-million Maley Drive extension and, more recently, the $100-million arena/events centre on The Kingsway.
But he's not letting it go to his head.
"There are staff members working on it, but it's council's decisions, their vision that's driving it forward,” he said Oct. 26.
"And Catherine Matheson is the project sponsor (for the arena), and I'm the project director. It is the will of council."
But when pressed, Shelsted allows that it's pretty exciting to be at the forefront of two projects that will have a major impact on how Greater Sudbury develops in the coming decades.
"It feels awesome," Shelsted said. "It's going to be a real jewel for the community. It can be a destination hub for tourism, economic development, and it can spark a lot of things in this community. It's really a good news story.
“It's going to act as a gateway to the eastern border of our community. There's many things we can do with the site and it's really an exciting project to work on."
Work on Maley is already well underway and is on schedule to be completed in 2019.
The arena, slated to open in 2020, is still in relatively early stages, but Shelsted said they are on schedule, too.
Developer Dario Zulich has been clearing land and has to build an access road so the area can be developed as a subdivision.
"The city doesn't own the lot yet — it still belongs to the developer and the developer is doing some work on site," Shelsted said.
"Right now, we're working on that integrated site plan and we're preparing a zoning application to rezone the parcel to allow a public arena."
In August, city council approved plans to hire an architect to come up with an integrated design for the arena, the casino, and new hotel being built on the site.
Shelsted's hoping to get approval from council for the integrated design later in November, which will allow them to keep moving forward.
Council also has to approve the debt financing plan and approve the criteria for the design/build RFP, which also has to be issued. "We're going to council to do a presentation on Nov. 1,” Shelsted said.
“And then in early November, we're going to be doing more public consultation, assuming the process keeps moving along."
While the site selection process was controversial – a struggle between downtown and The Kingsway – Shelsted said the public reaction now that the decision has been made has been overwhelmingly positive.
"I would say 90 per cent plus of the feedback we're getting is positive,” he said. “Everybody wants us to hurry up so they can go see an event there. They're excited to see a new arena come to the community. It is big deal. Our community arena is tired. It's going to be a much better experience in the new centre."
What they're looking for from the public are ideas about the vision they have for the site.
For example, Shelsted said they have heard so far that people want it accessible by many forms of transportation, and they want it as environmentally friendly as possible. So there are plans to link bike lanes to the new arena, and transit routes will have to be changed so people can easily travel to the facility.
"And we've got a whole sidewalk network that leads basically from Bancroft (Drive) that will have to get to the site, too,” he said.
“So we're providing access for all modes of transportation to the site. There's a big interest from the public in ensuring that we make everything sustainable and environmentally friendly.
"People want it to be a public, open space, for us to make it useable during all four seasons, that there be active transportation to the site and that we make it a tourist destination. (It's our job to) take those ideas and build it into the site."
Dates for the next public sessions on the arena will be announced in the next few weeks, he added.