Fredericton Playhouse will be rebuilt on existing property

Fredericton city council approved in principle a rebuild of the playhouse on its existing property at its council in committee meeting on Monday night. That includes a $33 million construction budget.

Council approved in principle the plan to rebuild a new performing arts centre on the existing Playhouse site

Fredericton city council approved in principle a plan to build a new performing arts centre on the land currently occupied by the Playhouse (Philip Drost/CBC)

Fredericton councillors approved in principle a plan to build a new performing arts centre on the land currently occupied by the Playhouse at its council-in-committee meeting on Monday night.  

"It's exciting that we have the site," said Greg MacFarlane, vice-president of the Fredericton Playhouse board of directors.

"Clearly it's a big night for us, for the business community and for the arts community. We have a location. But again it's another step in a long process." 

The building would be built in phases, to make sure it could continue to have performances during construction.

First, a smaller 300-seat auditorium would be built and in the second phase the main theatre would be torn down and rebuilt.

This plan would cost $33 million in construction with a total budget of $45 million.

It's in the best interest of the taxpayers to look at all the options.- Stephen Chase, Fredericton city councillor

Deputy Mayor Kate Rogers said this plan has multiple advantages.

She said people already feel connected to that location and that's already a spot with significant cultural buildings nearby like the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. 

"People have an attachment to that site," said Rogers. 

She said there also could be some opportunities with connecting the new building to the Fredericton Convention Centre. 

Opposition to plan

Councillors Stephen Chase, Greg Ericson and John MacDermid all voted against the plan, saying they would prefer the centre be built on the site of the provincial justice building at Queen and York streets.

The city asked the province if it would be willing to make a deal for that building, following the construction of the new justice building, but the province didn't give a definitive answer. 

Greg MacFarlane, vice-president of the Fredericton Playhouse board of directors, presented this plan, along with others, in October of 2016. (Philip Drost/CBC)

Chase asked that it be revisited. 

"It's in the best interest of the taxpayers to look at all the options," he said.

"It was a site that was in play for a long time, very strategic location, and it's going to be vacant in a matter of three or four years."

But Playhouse staff feels there are too many problems with the current building to wait several years to begin construction.

Last week, MacFarlane said the Playhouse had a major sewer pipe break in the basement. He said he was at the facility for a meeting and there was water running up through the concrete, lifting tiles.

The decision to build on the current Playhouse land could still be overturned. The proposal now goes to the regular council meeting on Jan. 22 to get approval.

If that happens, there will then be a technical study around the site, and a procurement strategy developed for the design process.

About the Author

Philip Drost

Philip Drost is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick.