The foundation behind the Galleria, the proposed downtown arts complex, says they urgently need $20 million from the city.
Representatives Edmonton Downtown Academic and Cultural Centre Foundation told council’s executive committee on Tuesday the money is needed by the end of March.
The most important part of their request is $5 million dollars for an underground pedway to connect the Galleria to Churchill LRT and the new Royal Alberta Museum.
They say the tunnel needs to be built this year to take advantage of the only window in the museum’s construction timeline.
The money is needed for the design and relocation of utilities.
The University of Alberta is expected to move 5,000 staff and students to the Galleria and will not lease space unless the pedway is built.
Lease payments are an important part of the project financing and the whole project will fall through without the university’s participation, according to Jim Brown, a director of the foundation.
"The pedway was a prerequisite, so without the pedway, it will be in jeopardy,” Brown told the committee.
The Galleria group says they also need $15 million to begin buying land for the project, which will be located north of the CN Tower and is part of the downtown cultural district that started with the Art Gallery of Alberta.
Tax increase not needed, mayor says
However, there are questions about whether the city can afford to hand over $20 million this year
The city’s chief financial officer Lorna Rosen told councillors it will be challenging.
“We're not walking into that with a tremendous amount of money so the only thing that I can offer and I say this with all due respect and seriousness, is that to come up with this kind of money right now would probably require a tax increase,” she said
Mayor Don Iveson doesn’t believe a tax increase is required as money is available through the community revitalization fund (CRL).
He believes it makes sense to construct the pedway now.
“I think that will be more cost effective and tie in better to the museum, rather than trying to bolt something on afterwards,” Iveson said.
“So that creates some urgency, but it's a good problem to have because a great project is moving forward.”
City council will make the final decision about whether or not to go ahead with the pedway funding on March 26.
The $40 million pedway would run from the Churchill LRT station, under 103A Avenue to the Galleria north of the Royal Alberta Museum.
The centre includes a 1,600-seat performance theatre, three smaller theatres, rehearsal space, an open-air galleria and an office tower.
It would also be the new home of the school of music and department of art for the University of Alberta.