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Wading in on the KED debate


(Learn about how 21st century cities are reinventing themselves: Watch the Life-Sized City Sunday nights at 8 on TVO.  “At the heart of every city is its citizens. Our perception of cities is slowly changing from a model of mathematical engineering to a human habitat where urban spaces have the potential to be healthy, attractive, interesting and efficient. In this six-part series, urban design expert Mikael Colville-Andersen explores the anatomy and vibrancy of the modern metropolis, highlighting pockets of life-sized goodness in cities around the world.”)


I am putting on my boots….and wading into troubled waters to comment on the KED debate.
I applaud the initiative of Dario Zulich and wish him well. He and his supporters have a plan that they think is best for the city. There was endless stewing about capital arts and entertainment projects before Zulich announced his dream for The Kingsway. (Only the creative Place des Arts people got their act and their money together, and are breaking ground on Elgin St.)
(But) the city’s official strategic plan is not being followed and; therefore, was a waste of time, talk and tax money. The plan reads, “Downtown will function as the local and regional centre of government services, business services, retail, sport and entertainment uses, arts and culture and community and institutional uses.”
The plan also says, “Greater Sudbury’s growth must be harnessed and directed to reinforce the efficiency, sustainability, health and resiliency of our communities.”
The brightest urban planners around the world agree progressive healthy cities need living and breathing central business districts. Think of the city centres you like to visit; they are people places that are alive 24/7.
Detroit is an extreme example of what is happening in 21st century cities. Pedestrian-friendly and more dense, “urban” spaces are being revitalized across North America and Europe for younger generations who have different ideas about how and where they want to live, shop and play.
Recently, I did something I could not have imagined doing five or 30 years ago. I went to see Elton John in concert at the Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit Oct. 12. I drove from Windsor through the tunnel under the Detroit River, and stayed in a downtown hotel. No problems. (A co-worker drove eight hours to see The Eagles in Detroit the next night.)
The 20,000 seat arena and event centre, home to the Red Wings and the Pistons, is located close to where the 1967 race riots took place. The riots left the core of this once world-class city a crime-ridden, burned-out shell. Social/economic and cultural upheaval of the last half century did the rest to bankrupt Detroit. A million people left the city, and at its lowest point, a third of the city’s serviced land was vacant.
The new Downtown Detroit is a playground with several theatres, an opera house, Comerica Park, home of the Tigers, and Ford Field, home of the Lions. There are lots of restaurants. Townhouses are being built and older buildings are being re-purposed as living spaces. A $1-billion retail/housing/office and event tower is going up in the hole left by the iconic Hudson’s store. Several museums, art galleries and Wayne State University are close by. A new streetcar line connects the attractions.
Sudbury looks backward by building a suburban entertainment district. Futurists foretell the decline of the suburbs and the rebirth of central business centres. We are behind the times. The people against KED are visionaries not dinosaurs. I’m just saying.

Vicki Gilhula

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