No money in Calgary's 4-year budget to fix Arts Commons

Calgary city officials say it could cost $35 million to repair a section of Arts Commons that is at risk of falling apart.

Building had netting and scaffolding installed 2 years ago after piece of stonework fell

Scaffolding and netting have been around the Calgary Public Building since a piece of stonework fell off it in 2016. The safety precautions will remain in place until repairs are made, but the proposed city budget allots no money for a fix. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

Calgary city officials say it could cost $35 million to repair a section of Arts Commons that is at risk of falling apart.

Two years ago, a small piece of stonework fell off the Calgary Public Building, which is the part of Arts Commons that is home to the Jack Singer Concert Hall and city offices.

No one was hurt, but the city installed scaffolding and netting to protect pedestrians in case it might happen again.

Calgary's proposed four-year budget has allotted no money to fix the 87-year-old building.

The $35-million estimate is a part of a mid-range renovation plan. To fully fix the problems and preserve the heritage elements of the building could cost up to $50 million.

'These are big numbers'

Nenshi said Thursday he was troubled by this particular issue. He said when a piece of stone fell from historic city hall, $40 million was found to fix the building.

Nenshi said far more people work in Arts Commons compared to city hall, and thousands go through it every day.

"We've had scaffolding up for years, and we'll have scaffolding up for four more years. These are big numbers," Nenshi said.

"I don't know if I can find you that money today, but I'm really troubled that we're just allowing this in this condition to continue. I don't think that is how we ought to be treating our assets where we have people working in them every day."

$400K for 'existing measures'

Coun. Druh Farrrell was also disappointed there's no money to do the work, but she hopes to find another solution.

"There is an opportunity through the Rivers District [Community Revitalization Plan] and the Community Revitalization Levy to invest in the Arts Commons, and I'm hoping we'll take some of that re-investment money and put into our performing arts centre," Farrell said.

"It doesn't really look good on Calgary to have scaffolding that's semi-permanent."

The city's budget does include $400,000 in 2022 to "re-validate existing stabilization measures at the Calgary Public Building," which Darrel Bell, the city's director of facility management, said is for more assessment work and will have no effect on the scaffolding situation. 

With files from Scott Dippel