The Elm Place mall is the most viable and affordable location for Sudbury’s central library branch, an option that could potentially shave millions off the current price tag of the Sudbury East Junction Project, says one of the mall owners.
Samer Ghazi, vice president of asset management of Vista Hospitality, the company that owns the downtown mall, says transforming 47,500 square feet of space to accommodate the Greater Sudbury Library Main Branch could be done for $19 million.
Elm Place worked with Luciw Boudreau Architecture, a Sudbury-based architectural firm, to develop a project budget and design to demonstrate that the relocation aligns with the library’s priorities and Downtown Sudbury Master Plan.
Ghazi said once building permits are secured, it would take about 15 months to complete the project.
“We believe we have the most cost-effective space because we have the infrastructure,” he said. “We just need a facelift to the space.”
The $19 million cost does not include the relocation of the Sudbury Art Gallery and Sudbury Multicultural and Folk Arts Association, although Ghazi says there is space in the mall to accommodate them – 15,000 square feet for the gallery and up to 5,000 square feet for the multicultural organization, located along the same corridor as the proposed library location.
The estimated cost to build the long-anticipated downtown cultural hub was originally pegged at $98.5 million. At the time, staff envisioned a brand-new facility — to accommodate Sudbury’s main library branch, the Art Gallery of Sudbury and Sudbury Multicultural and Folk Arts Association — located next to the Sudbury Theatre Centre. However, this past February, Greater Sudbury Mayor Paul Lefebvre asked staff to stop work, scale down the project and look at options more in the realm of $65 million. City staff returned to council in July, identifying Tom Davies Square as the best alternative to accommodate a downtown cultural hub. Since then, staff have explored the feasibility of the cultural hub at Tom Davies Square, studying current space and limitations, building code requirements, parking and other assets. City council will be updated on the project Tuesday and provided with next steps for their consideration. According to the staff report to be presented on Tuesday, it would take between 2.5 and 3 years to complete the project — and a price tag has yet to be determined.
“While there is not enough information on the design and configuration available at this point to provide a full cost estimate, the project team remains confident that, barring a prohibitive technical issue, the cost for this approach will be lower than the proposed Junction East new-build scenarios,” states the staff report.
For its part, in addition to producing a cost estimate, renderings and floor plans, the Elm Place mall also commissioned Oraclepoll to conduct a telephone survey of 500 residents across Greater Sudbury. Poll results demonstrate that project cost, parking and security were important to those surveyed when questioned about factors to be considered in the relocation. When provided the option of having the library relocated to Tom Davies Square or Elm Place, the latter was the preferred location.
Elm Place has also received letters of support from the local chapter of CARP (the Canadian Association of Retired Persons), NORCAT and Cambrian College.
Ghazi said he has not been invited to present to council on Tuesday, although he has been in contact with city staff with his latest market research and architectural report.
In fact, Ghazi has been in contact with city staff since 2017, during the initial stages of the Sudbury Junction East development. At the time, the mall didn’t fit the project’s scope. However, since then, Ghazi said Elm Place has undergone significant renovations and upgrades, including to its three-storey parking lot, making the facility in a better position today to accommodate the library.
“It has been in our interest always to add more services to the downtown and the public library will be a great tenant for us,” he said. “We have the other advantages which Tom Davies does not have, including the amenities that already exist.”
Those amenities include more than 900 parking spaces, a front door city transit stop, along with the transit centre across the street, security personnel and pre-existing tenants like a gym, movie theatre, grocery store and food court, he said, adding that no current tenants will need to be relocated and construction would not disrupt any existing businesses.
On Tuesday, city council will hear that staff will return to them Dec. 5 with a detailed updated report, including draft conceptual designs and a projected budget for both the cultural hub at Tom Davies Square, and the Municipal Services Relocation projects. “The report will include recommendations for Council’s consideration that will provide direction to move forward with this option and close out the previously proposed work,” according to the report. The next steps for staff would include continuing to work with partners to finalize conceptual design and space allocations, finalizing the structural analysis and working with an architect to finalize a cost estimate.
Laura Stradiotto, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star