Editor’s note: Patricia Mills was a keynote speaker at the first gs2025 community engagement session held Jan. 22 at Oscar’s Grill downtown. The following are her thoughts on what Sudbury will be like 10 years from now. Mills is the former publisher of the Laurentian Publishing magazine group.
Humans have an emotional need to connect to nature and when the much planned green space is completed along Elgin Street, Sudburians have a natural and a visually pleasing entry point into the Heart District.
Encompassing Sudbury’s historic downtown, the central business district, extending to St. Anne Road and Mackenzie Street and to Lorne Street to the West, the Heart District is the hub of activity that reflects life in Greater Sudbury.
There is no vehicle traffic in the Heart District. There are patios and storefronts showcasing food, crafts, arts, clothes, housewares, collectibles, and many types of consumer goods.
One side of Durham Street is lined with eateries of every description, from ethnic foods to pastry and coffee shops. Outside their doors are colourful patio tables with buskers entertaining dozens of people in various locations during the Busker Festival, and at other times, citizens are entertained by the sound of flowing water and birds singing in the tree-lined walkways.
The Art Gallery is right at home in the Heart District and artists of all disciplines showcase their talents in tastefully designed and interesting storefronts.
The bustling activity is spurred on by the influx of more than 4,000 residents, who moved into above-store lofts and reconstructed condominiums because of the vibrant energy and unique services available inside the themed buildings, and sometimes for the outside gardens that adorn the rooftops providing an interesting vista of the activity below.
The façade of the buildings and the layout of the streets were designed by students and professors from the School of Architecture, who welcomed the challenge to create the Heart District as a 10-year project.
They worked with engineering and environmental students from Laurentian University and were mentored and encouraged by city planners and established businesses with years of experience.
Various levels of government committed to the multi-year initiative along with stakeholders in the private sector who stood to gain from the creative development.
There is a grassy-bordered running track that intertwines among former streets and is aligned with a water feature that attracts foot waders in the summer and ice skaters in the winter when it’s converted into an ice skating track.
In the winter, some of the eateries have open patios with outdoor heaters, and pizza ovens where hot chocolate, wood-fired pizza and other treats are served to hungry skaters and walkers.
Cambrian College, College Boreal and Laurentian University all have storefront “campuses” in the Heart District for programs the institutions want to promote, highlight or encourage.
A new culinary school has opened up and students from all over the world attend to learn the cultural dishes and cooking methods of our diverse ethnic population, especially our First Nations Culture.
A new media company has emerged which focuses largely on living videos.
Their Heart District location includes a special video studio called the Public Corner, where everyday people can pop in and voice an opinion on any topic within the boundaries of good taste.
Sometimes these reality videos are hilarious, and other times insightful. But they are always authentic and always entertaining.
You see, what we have learned to do since 2015, is to acknowledge and appreciate that we are a capital city and to act accordingly.
Good capital cities have vibrant downtowns, where culture and lifestyle are celebrated. We needed to be an anticipated destination point for thousands of arriving students yearly, for international and national visitors to our industrial companies and even to the thousands of people who access our health-care facilities.
We are proud of our accomplishments and of our heritage and we found the courage, the determination, the means and the stamina to finally accomplish what every capital city has or needs – we found our heartbeat. It was in our downtown all along.
We created the Heart District to celebrate our past, grow our present and to attract our future. And let me tell you, it is absolutely beautiful.