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Construction set to start on Sudbury bilingual arts centre

After years of planning and fundraising, Place des Arts will be hub of city's francophone community
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Conceptual Drawing for Place des Arts
Place des Arts is on schedule to start construction this summer, according to treasurer Martin Lajeunesse.

Years of work to build a bilingual arts space in the heart of Sudbury is going to become a reality as shovels are set to go into the ground.

Place des Arts is scheduled to start construction sometime this summer, after securing public funding and awarding the design and build contract to two architecture firms last fall, as well as a successful ongoing capital fundraising campaign.

Martin Lajeunesse, treasurer for Place des Arts, said the entire board is very pleased with how the project has come together over the years and excitement is building over the groundbreaking.

“I can't be more specific right now, as we are working with the city to approve permits and going over the site plan, and the early final stages of design,” he said. “The designers are on board. Once the design is finalized, we will be going to tender for the construction.”

Because they are at the final phases, there are no new images or conceptual designs to be released to the public. All photos currently on the website are from the feasibility study, which was completed in 2015 with arts and business consultants, engineering firms and an architectural firm to confirm the business case. They are hoping to have new images to show the public in the coming weeks.

“Now that we have the architectural firm finalized, we hope to have sketches of what the building will actually look like,” Lajeunesse said.

The future building, which will be located at the junction of Elgin Street, Larch Street, and Medina Lane, will be the epicentre of the arts of the city, Lajeunesse said.

It will be home to a multi-functional studio, production facilities, offices, a gift shop, and a bistro, as well as storage space. It will also be the northern headquarters for several companies, including Carrefour Francophone de Sudbury, La Théatre du Nouvel-Ontario, GNO and La Nuit Sur L'étang.

All services will be offered in both English and French.

This is a community-led initiative, Lajeunesse said, which came out of consultations in the late-2000s. There was a need expressed then to have a gathering place that would serve a broad range of stakeholders from across all facets of the arts community.

“It is our mandate to support the arts of Northern Ontario. We are going to be the heart of all of it, so it will be offered in both official languages” he said.

“It's meant to be a gathering place for the community, and as they say in English, a showcase for all the great things going on, and as a venue for performing arts, French or English, in all disciplines, as well as visual arts.”

The building design also ties into the business model. Once in operation, the multi-use side will allow them to have a high occupancy rate, which will support the financial sustainability of the centre.

To drive the financial support from the community, the group put together a fundraising campaign a year ago. Last October, it secured 100 per cent of the required public funding, $26,250,000.

They have now turned their attention to capital campaigns, which Lajeunesse said are going very well. The campaign launched in early March and so far has collected $300,000, with more coming, he said.

Last fall, the building contract was awarded to Yallowega Bélanger Salach Architecture of Sudbury, and Moriyama & Teshima of Toronto in a joint venture. They are still finalizing building plans, but Lajeunesse said they are at the schematic phase and about to be completed so they can get their construction package ready and have a request for proposals over the summer.

“We are aiming for a little under a year and a half of construction, then a few months for the setup of the centre, which will be moving specialized equipment in and having residents move into the centre,” he said.