The $30-million plan would see 190 units built at the site of the old hospital; 125 units would be contained in the old hospital itself, with another 65 incorporated in a new, five-storey building that would be built after the current Mason building is demolished.
A three-story parking structure would be built at the far end of the property close to Boland Avenue, where most of the traffic would be routed. It would accommodate 239 vehicles, with additional 92 spaces in front of the main building and 40 more underground. Community gardens would be built on the roofs, and people with rooftop condos would have terraces, as well.
Total construction would take two to three years. There would be no rentals, and the condos would be higher-end and sold for at least $250,000-$500,000 each.
Probably the most contentious rezoning application the plan must clear is to have a triangular-shaped section of the property where the parking structure would be built rezoned from open spaces to residential.
Plans also include a 150-200-seat restaurant overlooking Ramsey Lake, which would be built where the helipad is now, and a wellness centre, both of which would be open to the public. Bell Park Road, a laneway that runs behind the old hospital, partly on city land, partly on Panoramic’s, would be redeveloped to handle more traffic.
“I’d be in support of it,” said Bob Perry, who lives in the area, after the meeting. “I disapprove of the fact we lost the hospital property, but that battle has been lost.”
When Sudbury’s three hospitals were merged into what is now Health Sciences North further up on Paris Street a few years ago, there was strong public support for the city to buy the land and add it to Bell Park. However, former Mayor John Rodriguez said at the time the city couldn’t afford to buy the property and demolish the buildings, and it was sold to a private developer, Panoramic Properties. Panoramic, based in Niagara Falls, owns seven existing properties in Greater Sudbury.
Perry said since the city didn’t buy the property, something should be done with it, and he was impressed by the architectural drawings on display June 11, describing it as beautiful. One of his concerns is the same as when the hospital was there: parking.
“They used to park right in front of my house,” he said. “The police would come and give them tickets.
“But they did a good job tonight. The presentation is impressive.”
He’s also concerned that routing most traffic through Boland will create a bottleneck, a concern expressed by many of the 150 people at the meeting, which was held at the Caruso Club on Haig Street.
Michael Allen, the architect who designed the proposal for Panoramic, faced more than an hour of often tough questioning, and garnered a round of applause at the end of the evening. He said he’s open to changes to his proposal to deal with traffic concerns. He pointed out, however, that the development is expected to generate only about one-third of the traffic the hospital did. And he made one point clear to the many in the crowd concerned about the future of Bell Park.
“It will not encroach on Bell Park,” he said. “All of the land belongs to Panoramic.”
In particular, he said they won’t be seeking the existing parking lot that was used by the hospital. That is city land, he said.
He described his plan as utilizing western European-style architecture that is focused on adapting the existing building, which he said has become an “eyesore.”
“What we’re proposing mixes in well with Paris Street,” he told the crowd. “But tonight is an opportunity to have a discussion. Nothing is set in stone.”
Steve May, a Sudbury resident with a degree in urban planning, urged the crowd to be vigilant. In particular, he was concerned whether the rezoning would be approved before the environmental assessments are complete.
“The public needs to know that we only have one chance to get this right,” May told the crowd. “I came here hoping to support this, but I’m really uncomfortable with what I’m hearing. I want this in my community, but I want this to be done right.”
However, Allen said the approvals will move forward in two phases, the first of which will go to the Planning Committee on June 27. He said the environmental assessment would not be complete by then, but said that wouldn’t be the end of the process and people could still object.
But May said, according to his understanding of the planning process, the public can only appeal a planning decision at the rezoning stage, which is what will be debated June 27. Allen disagreed, saying he is also a planner, but said he wasn’t going to get into a “credentials” debate with May.
Others in the crowd shouted objections, such as “It’s not yours! This is not what the Bell Family wanted!” At one point, an argument broke out between critics and supporters, with one man shouting at an opponent, “The building is there. What else are you going to do with the land?”
Gord Drysdale, a Sudbury artist and vocal critic of the development, said the entire proposal is a violation of the city’s Official Plan. He said one need only look at all the houses along Ramsey Lake as you drive toward Laurentian University, which block the view of the lake, to understand his concerns.
“If zoning is changed for this, it opens up the possibility of other developers coming in to block the view of Ramsey Lake even more,” he said. “It opens it up to other high-rise developments. That area is supposed to be returned and become parkland (under the Official Plan) and it has been violated for decades.
“And it’s a total violation of what the people of this city want.”
Allen said he wasn’t there to discuss or debate the politics of the project, and that as far as he is aware, Panoramic owns all the property where the project will be built.
“I appreciate this is emotional,” he said. “I appreciate that many people in this room were born there, that many people here were healed there, and many people, God bless them, died there.
“But I was not part of the politics that has brought us here today.”
Posted by Mark Gentili