Sudbury is at a watershed moment in its history. The city has been on the ascent with a diverse, growing, motivated and educated populace. With many major civic projects in the works, it now has the potential for massive transformation that will lay the groundwork for an incredible future. Planned and designed properly, these civic projects can radically alter how people "use" the urban core. These major projects could and should be used as the catalysts for economic growth. The subsequent inclusion of quality residential, commercial, and institutional buildings will create a rich fabric that most other North American cities can only dream of.
When a city has been predominantly developed from a suburban point of view it is very challenging to change the citizens' mindset. They have grown accustomed to their car-oriented lifestyle and, therefore, fear change. This fear stems from many issues: security, prejudice, inconvenience, and the fear of the unknown. The only way to overcome this mindset is to offer something that addresses those concerns and exceeds expectations for the environment in every way possible. This is not done by importing a version of the typical Canadian or northern climate city, but to create something that is unique and appropriate for Sudbury. To accomplish this, civic engagement will be essential. We need to listen to the constituents, offer up solutions and then work back and forth until a desirable plan for the future is developed. We need the citizen's emotional connection to the process to produce something that resonates with them as comprehensively community building. In our experience we have found that the best way to illicit a constructive conversation is to clearly present ideas for discussion. That is what this submission does.
The approach to the task of engaging the populace with downtown will not come easy. It cannot be done by thinking small. It involves a vision that challenges conventional thought to be truly effective. This is a bold re-imagining of the environment that balances a reconnection to nature, and its sustainable byproducts with new technologies expected of the modern citizen. Ultimately the physical and cultural diversity of this northern community is celebrated and promoted throughout this vision.
This connection to nature also addresses the idea that the core, unlike all suburban models, can be a true four-season environment by embracing the climate conditions all months of the year, not simply defaulting to the warm weather months. This approach includes shorter travel lengths, heated and covered walkways, winter activities, and indigenous landscaping. The dangers and isolation of the winter for our senior citizens is tackled head-on.
The theme of diversity, community, and the promotion of chance interaction invade every design decision made with this submission. "The more successfully a city mingles everyday diversity of uses and users in its everyday streets, the more successfully, casually (and economically) its people thereby enliven and support well-located parks that can thus give back grace and delight to their neighborhoods instead of vacuity. " Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. On this theme, we believe the zoning for all commercial and residential spaces should be adjusted with looser restrictions, allowing live/work/play arrangements with limited red tape whenever possible.
The challenge to create a vibrant core has no room for compromise. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity in the positive development of the community. With that as the vision, the proposed major projects that drive citizens to the core, including the new arts centre, the library, the convention centre, and, most importantly, the arena, must remain within the confines of the core and the redeveloped rail yards. To locate any of these important facilities outside of this perimeter will greatly hinder the likelihood of significant commercial or residential developments. A related concern is the proposed new Casino "Resort". This project Casino cannot go within the downtown area. It is a drain on experience and resources that is irreversible.
The first move is to disrupt the entire environment with a bold "incision" that reclaims the "streets" from the automobile and gives it back to nature and the citizens. This move resets the core as a 10-minute pedestrian-oriented precinct. The car goes from the primary mode of transportation to a service agent. The "anti-grid" encourages discovery and chance encounters.
The new and revised boulevards, streets and dedicated cycling paths are used to connect new and existing public spaces and civic buildings so that each excursion can offer a complete, multi-destination experience for the citizen. The existing streets are also re-considered. Some will have their layouts altered to be more pedestrian friendly, others will be narrowed or designated one direction for service only. The use of shared, sustainable vehicle services free up existing parking lots for more desirable uses.
The replanning of the core will attempt to re-establish a connection to nature. As our Indigenous Leaders have made clear, we should be one with the land. Newly created plazas and broad pedestrian boulevards will be filled with indigenous planting. The majority of the train tracks to the south of the core are removed and that land becomes a park that makes connections to the residential neighbourhoods and the underutilized waterfront.
The new civic projects (arena, convention centre, library, and art gallery), in addition to the existing City Hall and Train Station, can give the core the critical mass of activity that makes it an attractor for the desired commercial and residential developments required to make the environment thrive. These projects frame and animate the public spaces. They make the idea of living in the core, which was previously undesirable, highly attractive due to the new level of animation and convenience.
The final component of the urban core evolution is residences that appeal to a multi-generational market. The housing typologies should target two groups: a younger demographic that desires a lively, walkable lifestyle, and an older demographic that desires convenience and accessibility to the civic amenities that they can enjoy daily. The new residences, in turn, bring the demand for new office concepts creating a 24/7, 7 day a week user. In this vibrant environment, restaurants and shops can thrive.
When considering an evolution of the core, it is not enough to have a logical planning approach. The new works must be truly inspiring. Every design decision must enhance the environment. The architectural expression must be unique to Sudbury, it's beautiful landscape and its diverse history. The materials must be natural and strong. Granite, heavy timber and nickel dominate. These building types, due to their massing and height are ideal to utilize the latest developments in mass timber construction. This applies not only to the mixed use residential buildings but also the new civic projects such as the arena. Passive sustainability is also used to our advantage with boulevards and plazas opening to the south to accept the sun and block the west winds. We then marry all these these "moves" with the goal of creating a zero net energy environment.
The forms of Indigenous architecture will also inform the design. The tupiq, wigwam and pit house archetypes are used to create four season gathering places within the public zones.
These elements, along with an architecture of crystalline projections and undulating forms, reinforces the practical and metaphorical re-connection to nature. The reference to Indigenous architecture is not used as historical artifact but to inform future development in a more sensitive manner.
The vision presented encourages and supports the synergy between all of the uses, structures and human interactions required to create a rich and diverse urban environment. Not one element operates in isolation from one another. It is an urban ecosystem that can grow, respond and evolve to everchanging conditions, laying the groundwork for a vibrant core that will instill great pride and offer enjoyment to Sudbury's citizens.
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