08 Oct Airo Security Review: Architectural firm pitches KED alternative to council
After months of discussion, the Project Now pitch has finally been made to council.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, the architectural firm behind Project Now – an alternative to the Kingsway Entertainment District — presented their idea to councillors.
The plan reimagines the Elgin Street barn with a top-to-bottom makeover that includes hundreds of new parking spaces, retail space along Minto and Brady Streets, and much better accessibility for patrons, as well as performers.
3rdLine Studio, the Sudbury-based architectural firm behind the reimagining, said they believe the renovation can be completed for $60 million, saving taxpayers about $40 million. The events centre scheduled for the KED is currently valued at about $100 million.
Tim James, an architect and partner at 3rdLine, said one of the reasons the project is so cost-efficient is because no new infrastructure is required. Currently, the land scheduled to become the KED is an empty landscape. There are no sewers, no interior roads, no streetlights or traffic signals. Everything would have to be installed before the area could become operational.
Project Now includes a modern and bright concession area; a parking structure across Minto Street; an easily accessible area for transport trucks; and a new, welcoming entrance area. 3rdLine said the makeover can be completed without interrupting either the Wolves or the Five seasons, and work can begin immediately.
The plan will also leave residents and visitors with new parking options. There are currently approximately 3,700 parking spaces within a 10-minute walk of the arena, but the 3rdLine plan would add 450 spots in a structure along Minto Street, which would be accessible to those who work and visit downtown, as well as those who will eventually use The Junction facilities. It would be connected to the events centre via a glassed-in walkway and would include 60,000-square-feet of retail space.
The presentation was challenging to hear, as James seemed to have several audio problems; however, it did generate significant discussion.
While James and Angele Dmytruk, a partner at 3rdLine, emphasized the savings that could result from an arena renovation, Couns. Robert Kirwan and Bill Leduc (Wards 5 and 11, respectively) inferred it could actually cost more to renovate the Elgin Street barn than to build new along The Kingsway.
Kirwan said his math shows the KED build will actually only cost taxpayers about $80 million. He also pointed out work cannot begin immediately, since that would require council to back out of the KED deal first.
“We can’t do any kind of renovating to the downtown arena yet, because the Sudbury Wolves are the major tenant and have a 25-year lease extension if they play on the Kingsway,” Kirwan added. “Their lease expires on March 31, 2022 if they’re playing downtown. As long as the KED is in play – and right now it’s before the courts – I would hesitate to recommend that we pull out now at this late stage and not expect to be back in the courts very soon.”
Kirwan argued it will actually cost more to renovate than to build new, because of the revenue that will be generated by building the KED on the Kingsway.
“We will be saving money by building on the Kingsway – that’s guaranteed because of the expansion we can develop around the arena, including the casino and hotel, and other things on the 140 acres,” Kirwan said.
Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo said he could not support the Project Now plan for several reasons, including the leaky roof and poor ice quality. He seemed unconvinced the renovation would address these insufficiencies. Jakubo is an ardent supporter of the KED and reaffirmed on Tuesday his commitment to the location.
“Absolutely we can afford new and the people of our city deserve new,” Jakubo said. “That was the decision in 2015.”
Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland, who introduced a motion recently with Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti to allow 3rdLine to present their idea to council, asked James why the old barn is so important to him.
“We’re interested in seeing a city develop using good practice in terms of architecture and design, and urban planning,” James explained, adding his team believed as professionals they had a duty to offer cost-saving alternatives to the KED. “We’re looking under all the rocks.”
Those for and against the KED are currently waiting for the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal to return with recommendations.
Twelve appeals were filed in 2018 by Steve May, Tom Fortin, Christopher Duncanson-Hales, the Minnow Lake Restoration Group and the downtown BIA.
The appeals objected to various aspects of the project, including parking lot rezoning; casino rezoning; amendments made to the official plan concerning the casino; and arena rezoning.
The appeal by the Minnow Lake Restoration Group was previously dismissed; however, 11 appeals were recently heard at the LPAT. A decision is expected by the end of December.