High demand from arts, health groups for space in re-purposed MacEwan West campus

More than 70 groups have expressed interest in being a part of MacEwan West, the MacEwan University campus that will become a City of Edmonton building next September.

Three groups wanted to buy the building but city says no thanks

The City of Edmonton will take over ownership of MacEwan University's west-end campus this fall.

More than 70 groups have expressed interest in being a part of MacEwan West, the MacEwan University campus that the city will take over next September.

The university is consolidating all of its operations in its expanding downtown location. Four years ago, city council approved the purchase of MacEwan West, at 10045 156th St.

The campus was originally the main hub for MacEwan programs in the fine arts, housing signature offerings like jazz music, musical theatre, and dance.

The city wants to re-purpose the building into an intercultural, interagency community hub for arts, recreation, wellness and learning.

On Monday, a tenant selection committee presented a report on the building's future to council's community and public services committee.

Demand for space is five times higher than the roughly 110,000 sq. ft. available, the report said.

Of 71 applications received, 31 were from the arts and heritage sector, 20 were from health and wellness groups and eight were from learning organization. Another 12 were classified as "other," the report said.

The Arts Habitat Association of Edmonton has been working with the city on the future of the space.

"MacEwan has used this as a fine arts building, so there are a number of spaces within the facility purpose-built for the arts," said Linda Huffman, the association's executive director.

"It would be a shame to lose those, and it would be a wonderful benefit to have them open up for use by other groups", said Linda Huffman, the association's executive director.

Interested buyers

Three organizations came out of the woodwork with unsolicited interest in buying MacEwan West. The committee decided to reject outright sale as a possibility.

Coun. Scott McKeen was alone in suggesting the city get more information on selling the aging building, which is in need of over $37 million in capital improvements.

"I just thought we were eliminating one possible answer," McKeen said.

"There's just a lot of costs associated with that building and sometime it just makes you go gulp … It gives you a certain amount of anxiety."

The committee voted to continue the process of finding appropriate tenants.

About 60 per cent of the space will be allocated to anchor tenants, with the rest going to small arts groups and non-profit organizations.

The tenant selection process will come back before the city in early 2017.