Timber City is a 30 year vision for Sudbury that revolves around three core ideas: the relationship between timber construction and the management of the Greater Sudbury Forestry, a revitalized railyards district, and the pedestrianization of the downtown core. The intersection of these three ideas generates a vision that speaks to mobility, wellbeing, and our relationship with the natural environment.
Sudbury's history over the past century is deeply entwined with the demand for nickel; the city's west side is forever imprinted with its success as a one of the world's leading producers of the material. In the year 2050, we have been speaking of ideas around renewal and regeneration for nearly a century, and while the reliance on non-renewable resources has waned, the demand for timber produced by forests governed by perpetual cycles has grown. Through R&D partnerships between academic institutions and industry, new methods of documenting, harvesting and manufacturing have emerged over several decades of interest in a more sensitive approach to forestry management.
The downtown core of Sudbury is a composed of neighbourhoods nestled into a series of exposed outcrops of the Canadian Shield, divided in two by the railyards. The construction of the railyards were pivotal in Sudbury's growth, as the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway led to the discovery of nickel-copper ore in the Sudbury Basin. They now dominate the center of the city, punctuated only twice by elevated and sunken roads. The bow-tie shape of the railyards offers two sites for intervention. To the south-east an elevated park provides a new pedestrian link through the north-south axis of the city, underneath which is the new arrival platform for the Sudbury train station. To the north west, two new districts that focus on innovation and manufacturing flank the north and south sides of the railyards. These districts house state-of-the-art facilities for research in forestry and timber sciences, and manufacturing for timber building products.
North of the railyards, Downtown Sudbury's grey-to-green ratio is heavily biased towards parking space. These open lots are an opportunity for pedestrian oriented infill development. A network of plazas, courtyards, parks and parkettes permeates the new urban plan, forming spaces to gather, recreate and move through. The rocky outcrops that are a defining feature of the Sudbury urban landscape provide naturally elevated podiums for new cultural institutions. Atop the mountain directly east of the downtown core sits a new art gallery, and a museum of historical mining practices to speak to the intersection of mineral extraction and the natural environment.
The Greater Sudbury Forest is managed by the Vermillion Forest Management Company. Their 2020-2030 management plan provides a highly detailed investigation of forest lots, silvicultural methods, harvesting cycles and forest ecology. The primary silviculture systems are clearcutting, shelterwood and, for hardwood forests, the selection system is used. The 2030-2040 management plan introduces continuous cover as a pilot study in a number of plots. Within a lot this method maintains at least 30% tree cover and at least two-age classes of production trees. While the differences between neither clear cutting or continuous cover have proved different in their overall benefit to the climate, continuous cover maintains a continuous ecosystem, where the entirety of the ecological network is considered the capital production of the forest, including soil, carbon, water, fungi, flora and fauna. These lots are naturally regenerated, rather than by planting, and are often a mixed woods structure. The general maintenance of these plots (routine thinning and culling of branched hardwoods) produces a low-value stream of timber product that through new technologies is transformed into high quality structural products for use within buildings. These include small-diameter roundwood, roundwood poles, windswept timber and branched timber. The value of timber produced in these forests was estimated to be approximately $30,000,000, however, due to a lack of demand and diversity of use, only 50% of the allowable harvest volume is cut, with the total allowable harvest estimated at $60,000,000 annually. Through the introduction of a line of 'minimally processed' timber products, this overall value is increased in tandem with the harvest rate, partially due to the increasing demand for timber in buildings.
The year 2050 marks a period of growth for Sudbury, primarily due to the change in climate. As regions to the south warm, the Sudbury climate has welcomed an influx of climate refugees with warmer winters, albeit with more extreme fluctuations in temperature. The timber industry has scaled its production to meet the new demand for housing. The new manufacturing park to the south-west of the railyards has busily produced structural products for the new buildings in Sudbury. The new arena to the north of the railyards, along with the buildings at the manufacturing park and the research district stand as examples of the new line of minimally processed timber products, while the new infill buildings make use of a range of CLT, DLT, Pres-Lam and Glulam timber products. Collaboration with academic institutions and the development of a new research district on the north side of the railcards has expedited the transition from theory to practice within new material sciences.
The downtown core of Sudbury has been redeveloped, primarily making use of the old parking lots that dominate the urban footprint. Elgin St. between Grey St. And Shaughnessy St. is now a large open plaza surrounding the new train station. The south-east side of the railyards has been decked with a park to create a permeable neighbourhood fabric between the north and south sides. A development in the north-west end of the plaza houses a variety of cultural programs. At street level, a series of market halls are contained within the podium of each building. Above the market, there is a Cultural Centre for the Anishinabek community, a library, a maker space with children's programming, and a local tourism office. On the roof there are a series of open-air food vendors. This space can be heated for cozy outdoor winter experiences. To the east side of the plaza, a new sports arena hosts a variety of sports, concerts, performances and cultural events.
The Elm Place mall at the intersection of Notre Dame Rd. and Elm St. Has been replaced with a mixed-use neighbourhood. Mid-rise buildings surround a large open area called Elm Park. Some of the programming from Elm Place now occupies the first and second levels of the new buildings, such as the Greater Sudbury Housing Corporation, the Community Care Access Centre, and the Hart Department Store. In addition, new amenities, such as a cinema, artist studios, and restaurants open into the park attracting visitors from across the city.
Phase one of this plan looks at the creation of the new manufacturing and research parks, to facilitate the production of new fabrication methods and mass-produced timber products. Phase two sees the development of the railyard park, the train station and the cultural district. This development will generate excitement around the future urban fabric of Sudbury and help to attract newcomers to the city. Phase 3 targets infill projects throughout the downtown core, with a focus on the Elm Park district.
Timber city is largely a proposal for calculated infill developments that are phased over 30 years. Core to its development is the investment in local timber industries. This investment in supporting both the existing industry and funding new research will pave the way for an ecologically tuned mid-21st century city. These investments should also be directed towards goals of supporting Indigenous owned timber industries and expanding the forested land they access to for forestry products.
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