Fredericton council approves $900,000 in work on site of unconfirmed arts centre
Mayor says the work is necessary even if a performing arts centre isn't built there
Fredericton city councillors voted Monday night to spend nearly $900,000 on foundation work needed to protect the site of a potential performing arts centre as construction on an adjacent site begins, even though the arts centre has struggled to gain traction from other levels of government.
The city purchased the section of land that borders King, Regent and Brunswick streets last summer for $8.2 million and sold part of the property to the province for the new justice building for about $2.5 million. The city hopes the adjacent property at King and Regent streets will become the site of the performing arts centre but that project has not been confirmed.
"Council has not yet made a decision on site there yet. So at this point, we purchased the property to create the opportunity for it to go there but there hasn't been a council resolution to that question yet," said Ken Forrest, director of growth and community services for the city.
The justice building is under construction on the adjacent property, and the city says work is required to protect the foundations at both sites.
"We're working in concert with the province to make some investment in the justice building to make sure that it doesn't negatively impact the future construction of a performing arts centre," Forrest said.
"And by doing that, we protect in reverse as well — so when we ultimately build a performing arts centre or some other building, we don't negatively impact the justice building that will be sitting next to it."
The city will put about $200,000 toward the work at the justice building site, which the province will also contribute to, said Forrest.
Forrest said it's worthwhile spending by the city regardless of whether the performing arts centre is built on the site.
"This investment really would need to be made for any building that happens on the corner lot," he said. "So if it's the performing arts centre, that's great. But that investment will still kind of provide value to the city or others who build on that lot."
Mayor Kate Rogers agreed.
"It's work that would need to be done regardless of what building is going to be put there just for the stability of the building," Rogers said.
Margo Sheppard was the only councillor who voted against it. She had concerns about flooding in the area.
The city bought the property from Commercial Properties Ltd. As part of the agreement, the company has right of first offer on the property if it doesn't become a performing arts centre within five years.
"If we don't proceed with that then they have an option, a time-limited, windowed option, to buy back or we can pursue other development options on the site," Forrest said.
In 2014 the city committed $14 million to the performing arts centre project, which it estimated would cost about $45 million in total. In 2018, the decision was made to build the performing arts centre on the existing Playhouse site. Last year, the city said it would move the potential site to King and Regent streets.
The federal nor provincial governments have not contributed to the project.
The Playhouse was built in 1964, and the city took over ownership in 2000. Several studies have concluded the building is at its end of life.