The Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH) plans to raise about $30 million to improve its grounds and exhibition space, including an outdoor downtown sculpture garden.

The gallery hopes to extensively renovate to include a new entrance off Main Street and more space to exhibit art. Preliminary estimates show the plan would cost as much as $30 million, although numbers are misleading at this early stage, executive director Louise Dompierre told the city’s general issues committee on Wednesday.

“I think there’s a huge welcome to the changes that we’re proposing to bring on Main Street,” she said.

The gallery is a tenant on city-owned land. Councillors expressed early support but asked for more information about the lease arrangement.

The sculpture garden and Main Street entrance would contribute to downtown revitalization, and create a stronger presence, the gallery said in an email.

Among the ideas:

  • A new wing that will provide a new entrance from Main Street.
  • Three new studios.
  • Re-organizing the ground floor to give better access to the galleries and studios.
  • Relocating the cafe so it faces the sculpture garden;
  • Expanding gallery space on the second floor to display more of the permanent collection.
  • New office spaces to accommodate a growing number of staff;

The gallery saw 290,000 visits in 2012, and the numbers will be good this year too, Dompierre said.

Coun. Judi Partridge liked the sound of the expansion, but wants more information on what it means for the city as the property's landlord.

“What I want to make sure is it’s not going to come back and bite us if we haven’t done our due diligence,” she said.

Dompierre said she doesn’t anticipate asking the city for money, although city donations are a normal part of large expansion projects.

The gallery’s last major renovation was in 2003, when the city contributed to the $18 million project.