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Coming soon to Yarmouth? 2 new performing arts centres

An arts group in Yarmouth, N.S., is establishing a new, multimillion-dollar performing arts centre while the town council is moving ahead with its own plans for a separate centre in the community of about 6,500.

Th'YARC Playhouse and Arts Centre announces plans to build its own art centre, while town plans to do the same

Th'YARC Arts and Playhouse Centre is currently located on Parade Street in Yarmouth, N.S. (Google Maps)

An arts group in Yarmouth, N.S., is establishing a new, multimillion-dollar performing arts centre in the South Shore town, while the town council is moving ahead with its own plans for a separate centre in the community of about 6,500.

Mitch Bonnar is the president of Th'YARC Playhouse and Arts Centre, which has long been looking to tear down its existing arts facility on Parade Street and rebuild. He said the group has purchased the former Arcadia Consolidated School, which is located just outside the town and a little more than four kilometres from its current home.

Th'YARC had been embroiled in a dispute with the town over where a new arts centre should be located. The town wants to put one downtown.

Th'YARC's plans

Bonnar said the school has a configuration similar to what it was looking for in an arts centre. A 450-seat sloped theatre and 200-seat flat theatre will need to be added to the site to achieve that vision.

Bonnar said the group isn't interested in being part of the town's plans because it would be a tenant in their space and not have control of its operations.

The Town of Yarmouth wants to put an arts and culture centre in the block that covers First, Second, Collins and Alma streets. (Google Maps)

"That's a total loss of autonomy and that's not acceptable to our membership," he said, noting there are 540 members.

Bonnar wouldn't disclose the purchase price of the school, but said renovations should cost about $7 million, which is less than the $11 million Th'YARC figured it would cost to build its own facility.

Renovation work could begin as early as next summer and Bonnar thinks it will take at least 1½ years to complete.

Town believes 'very strongly' in its plans

Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood said this project won't have any impact on the town's plans to build a new arts centre.

"It doesn't impact the town … we believe very strongly in what we're doing," she said.

Last month, the town issued a request for proposals for a design concept and feasibility study for the centre.

Council vote happening tonight

According to a staff report, four proposals were received and council is being encouraged to accept one submitted by MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects, the company that previously conducted public engagement sessions on the proposed arts centre in October.

Council will vote on the proposals Thursday night.

Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood says the town is moving ahead with its plans for a new arts and culture centre downtown. (Peter Dawson/Radio-Canada)

The town's arts centre would be housed on the block bounded by First, Second, Collins and Alma streets.

It's not yet clear how much the town's arts centre will cost, but money will likely come from the three levels of government and a capital campaign.

Mood said the town wants ownership of the building because of the millions of dollars of taxpayers' money that will be invested in it.