$850M arts centre and campus touted for downtown

An arts centre and campus proposed for downtown north of the CN Tower will cost $850 million.

Edmonton philanthropist group pitches centre north of CN Tower, seeks $100M from city

An arts centre and campus proposed for downtown north of the CN Tower will cost $850 million. (Supplied)

An arts centre and campus proposed for downtown north of the CN Tower will cost $850 million.

The centre includes a 1600-seat performance theatre, three smaller theatres, rehearsal space, an open-air galleria and an office tower.

The group behind the project, the Edmonton Downtown Academic and Cultural Centre Foundation, hopes to raise $100 million from donations and grants, obtain $100 million from the city in land and funding and borrow $650 million.

The group has been working on the centre since 2008 when a city report identified a need for stage venues and rehearsal space for dance and theatre productions.

The project has grown with the involvement of the University of Alberta, which intends to move three university departments —  the School of Music, Department of Art and Design and one other — into the centre bringing up to 5,000 staff and students into the downtown area.

"The strong support of the University of Alberta is a cornerstone element of the project," says the report which goes to the city's executive committee Monday. "The university ses this as a catalytic opportunity to advance both its vision for a downtown presence and seek dynamic new operationsl models for the future."

It's expected the university would lease half of the centre's space.

An office tower would also would also contribute to the operational and maintenance costs of the centre.

The city's contribution would be $65 million in land and $35 in funding for the galleria. The city would then lease the land to the foundation, which would own the centre, for $1 per year.

The centre would further solidify 99th Street as an "true arts district" corridor from the Winspear Centre north to the Art Gallery, the yet-to-be-built Royal Alberta Museum.

The foundation hopes to complete the project by July 2017, requiring the city to approve the framework agreement in June.

The first step towards the centre is for the city to buy a building on the site that belongs to the Edmonton Public School Board.

It is asking the city to negotiate with the school board to buy the maintenance building at 105th Avenue and 100th Street, saying the location is key to the project.

City councillors will consider the request Monday.

In the report the group says the time for the project is now — saying Edmonton's downtown is going through a once-in-a-generation transformation which is expected to bring more people to the city's core.