EDITORIAL: Downtown could be great, but it isn’t yet

By Callam Rodya

Downtown Sudbury is like the classic Mustang wreck sitting in the garage with a tarp over it that could turn heads if only someone would invest the time and elbow grease into restoring her, but nobody will. It is a sore spot for Sudbury residents, and despite years of promises from municipal politicians and community organizations, the revitalization of the downtown core still remains but a dream.

There are few cities in Canada that would celebrate the opening of a drug store in its downtown core with so much optimism and hope. However, Sudbury residents, and politicians alike, are doing just that. On Saturday, Shoppers Drug Mart, Canada’s largest retail pharmacy brand, opened a new large format store on Elm Street. It is the biggest boost to the downtown economy and most positive sign of a revitalization we have seen in a long time.

But it’s still a drug store.

Downtown Sudbury suffers from a case of niche-ism: too many establishments catering to one thing with little variety. There are too many places to get a coffee, grab a beer, have a sandwich, or cash a cheque. There are a few places to pay way to much for clothing. But overall, our downtown serves as a rest stop more than a destination.

That is not to say that there aren’t attractions downtown. After all, downtown is the home of the Sudbury Arena, the Sudbury Theatre Centre, Rainbow Cinemas, and some of the best dining in the city.

The biggest problem with downtown Sudbury? It is unwelcoming. Period.

Let’s face it, downtown is ugly, sketchily-populated, and operates on Holiday hours seven days a week, 365 days a year. What kind of corner store closes at 6 p.m.? What kind of pharmacy closes at 5 p.m.? Parking is limited, especially once the downtown office workers nab all of the prime spots by 9 a.m. The urban design of our downtown is a maze of illogical one-way streets and creepy alleyways. And there is no real personality or life, or even culture, to be found.

What other downtown core is deserted by 7 p.m. on a weekday? Downtown Sudbury is.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not making the case against downtown Sudbury. For most of the time I’ve lived in city, it’s been in or near downtown. I love it. It’s where I exist when I’m not on campus. My point is that our downtown leaves much to be desired, and as a resident who has lived in the core for some ten-odd years, I see little evidence of a true revitalisation or that downtown Sudbury is even a real priority.

Perhaps now, with a new mayor at the helm of city hall, and with a few signs of an upward swing here and there, downtown might finally get the attention it needs. I would love to see a revitalized, vibrant, welcoming, beautiful downtown in this city. I believe it could be.

One thing is certain, though: it will take a lot more than a large format Shopper’s Drug Mart to restore this classic Mustang.

1 comment

  1. Yes, there is a problem with downtown Sudbury. However, the solution is not to develop the commercial element in the hopes that people will start showing up. Get a mixed population of middle-class families and professionals living downtown in appealing condos, and businesses will thrive and multiply to serve the local residents. The downtown core provides much needed housing for low and fixed income residents, but such a small cross-section of Sudbury’s population isn’t enough to support longer business hours or more variety of businesses. Put the people there first.