Gas Station Arts Centre expansion and renovation gets a green light

A six-storey residential building could rise above a renovated Gas Station Theatre with the help of city tax rebates — but more sources of funding are needed to make it happen.

City to provide tax rebates for new theatre; more cash needed for low-rise residential tower

A previous iteration of the Gas Station Arts Centre proposal. The current one is six storeys tall.

A six-storey residential building could rise above a renovated Gas Station Theatre with the help of city tax rebates — but more sources of funding are needed to make it happen.

The Gas Station Arts Centre is planning a $26.5-million renovation and expansion project for the non-profit theatre in Osborne Village.

The project calls for a new 300-seat theatre at the northeast corner of River Avenue and Osborne Street, topped by a low-rise tower with 7,700 square feet of commercial space, with 55 residential units and 55 underground parking spots.

Twenty-four of those apartments would be rented at market rates, while 31 would be devoted to affordable housing.

Of the 31 affordable housing units, more than three-quarters would be managed by Performing Arts Lodge, a non-profit organization that secures housing for artists of limited financial means, two will belong to Macdonald Youth Services and nine will be managed by Dream Big, an organization that supports people who are both deaf and blind. 

On Tuesday, council's property committee voted unanimously to rebate some of the new municipal property taxes that will flow from the project once occupancy permits are approved.

The Gas Station Theatre currently pays $11,000 a year in property taxes, a report to the committee states. The estimated new taxes that will flow from the expanded project will total $84,000 a year.

The city is prepared to rebate $48,000 of the revenue every year for 10 years, for a total grant of $480,000. Lakeview vice-president Wayne Bollman, whose development firm is building the project, requested a 20-year amortization period, which would have contributed another $480,000.

The city declined to provide more funding because it has no program in place to support housing with tax rebates outside of downtown Winnipeg. Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Jenny Gerbasi moved a motion to see whether such a program could be created.

Gas Station Arts Centre executive director Nick Kowalchuk said without the additional $480,000, the project will have to be scaled back.

Kowalchuk said his organization has now secured about $3.5 million worth of funding, including the $480,000 from the city and about $1.25 million in private funding. The property committee decision should allow private-fundraising efforts to ramp up, he said.

Kowalchuk said he's met with Manitoba Families Minister Scott Fielding about potential provincial support. Property committee chair John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) said he too plans to meet with Fielding about the project.

The city tax rebates still must be approved by executive policy committee on Wednesday and council as a whole next week.