Why Should Downtown Sudbury Be Any More Important Than Downtown Valley East?

Robert Kirwan
Valley East Today

Ever since amalgamation took place on January 1, 2001, it seems as if the movement to develop and improve Downtown Sudbury has taken on a new life. Prior to amalgamation, the six outlying communities could care less about Downtown Sudbury. They were more interested in developing 'Downtown Capreol', 'Downtown Lively', 'Downtown Chelmsford', and, yes, 'Downtown Valley East'.

When we were governed by Regional Government and had our own Town Council, the main debate was about whether to put more effort into developing the commercial area of Val Caron or the area around the Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre - Library corridor. One of those two sites appeared to be destined to become "Downtown Valley East". 

After amalgamation, however, all efforts to promote development in these two areas, and indeed, in all of Valley East, were left up to the forces of nature. In other words - it was the marketplace which would determine where development will happen.

There are some very vocal lobby groups, including the City of Greater Sudbury, spending a lot of money and energy trying to convince everyone who will listen of the value of a strong downtown core. People in Valley East do not completely disagree with all of the rhetoric, however, there are several major issues to which many local residents take exception.

For example, it has been argued that downtown Sudbury is the city's historical, cultural and spiritual centre. That may be the case for "Sudbury", but it is not the case in each of the outlying communities, many of which can also lay the same claim. There is a proud tradition in Valley East, which celebrated its Centennial recently. Valley East, and more specifically, each of the smaller components of Valley East, namely, Val Caron, Blezard Valley, Val Therese, and Hanmer, each have their own historic and cultural centres. Long time residents of these communities are wondering why downtown Sudbury should receive any more consideration than their own.

A great deal has been invested in developing the core areas of Valley East and Capreol. In fact, just as much has been invested in these areas as in Sudbury. It makes no sense to simply abandon the momentum which had been growing up until five years ago.

Residents of Valley East are wondering when our local leadership will accept the fact that society has changed. People no longer want to be downtown. Valley East is the fastest growing segment of the City of Greater Sudbury. Retail growth is on the outskirts, around shopping centres where there is free parking and it is easy to get around. Downtown Sudbury may be fine for government offices and small retail stores, but the general public has spoken. They would rather live far away from the downtown Sudbury core, and they would rather shop far away from the downtown Sudbury core.

Downtown Sudbury will survive if left on its own. The Hart Department Store has given the retail sector life in the Rainbow Centre. There are a lot of offices located in the downtown section. It will do fine, but it certainly does not deserve the attention it is getting from the City officials.

If the City of Greater Sudbury is going to grow and prosper in future decades, then we must help places like Valley East, Capreol, Rayside Balfour, Walden, and Nickel Centre develop their own identifiable sense of identity. People coming in to the area accept these as separate communities. They want to live in these separate and distinct communities. 

Candidates running in Wards that are contained in the outlying communities, such as Wards 5, 6 and 7, will have to show constituents that they are going to support and initiate efforts which will be designed to promote more than just downtown Sudbury. They are going to have to convince voters that downtown Valley East and downtown Capreol will also be given a high priority in the next three years.




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