The historic site at the corner of Beech and Elgin streets will soon be filled with students from Laurentian's School of Architecture. The building was the original home of DeMarco Brothers Sporting Goods in the 1950s until a few years ago, and has been designated a heritage property in the Downtown Master Plan.
In a release, the current owners of the building said the renovated structure will include 13 rooms for students spread out on two floors, with shared kitchens, three bathrooms on each floor, laundry facilities and lounge areas.
“The building is definitely upscale with 12-foot ceilings and features fine architectural features which will appeal to Laurentian’s School of Architecture students,” said a release from Sooki Han of the Park family. “Just a one-minute walk from the school, the units are newly furnished and the building is secure.”
The residence should open in a week or so, and comes as other longtime businesses downtown are closing. Records on Wheels, Black Cat and Joe Lesar Men's Wear have all shut their doors in recent months. But the opening of the architecture school is bringing young people to the area, and the owners say renting the rooms won't be a problem.
“We have already had several enquiries and feel confident that we will be able to place 13 students who want a downtown living experience,” said Han. “We had many challenges in restoring this beautiful building, in meeting the new renovation guidelines, but we have finally accomplished what we set out to do two years ago.
“We want to thank the Downtown Village Development Corporation for providing encouragement, giving us plenty of information and basically staying with us every step of the way.”
Susan Thompson, managing director of the DVDC, said in the release that downtown needs more of this type of residential development.
“We have been working with several developers like the Parks to encourage more residential units,” Thompson said. “We feel that the downtown has a lot to offer for seniors, students and anyone who may be tired of the suburbs and wants an urban living experience.”
Getting more of the 6,000 people who work downtown to live there as well is key to boosting the area's economic prospects, Thompson said.
“The only way we are going to develop the downtown is to bring in residents because retail follows people,” she said in the release. “The Canadian Urban Institute has compared Sudbury to other cities its size and finds that we are greatly lacking in downtown residential accommodation and not taking advantage of the tremendous advantages lying right in the middle of our city.”
To help make that a reality, Thompson said the city needs to address the chronic shortage of parking spaces.
“We continue to appeal to the city for parking buildings to alleviate the current frustration being felt by downtown visitors. We feel that this issue needs to be addressed right away.”
The city has looked at building a dedicated parking structure downtown, and the Downtown Master Plan includes a proposal for a 250-space, three-storey parking garage that would cost about $7.5 million. But it would be too costly for the city to build on its own, concluded a staff report last year, and the private sector hasn't shown interest in building or operating such a facility.
But Thompson said more parking would leverage significant economic development and boost property tax revenue.
“Downtown development can bring tens of millions of tax dollars into our coffers, not only with residential but with the commercial and retail businesses that will follow,” she said in the release.
“It’s a clear cut case for economic development, not just nostalgia for the '50s and '60s, but it requires the support of our elected representatives. We can have an exciting downtown that rivals any in the country, a great northern place to live, work and play.”