New Brunswick

Old Moncton High to be converted into office space, community arts centre

Part of the old Moncton High School will soon be converted into office space and the theatre will become a community arts centre, the provincial government announced on Thursday.

Provincial government finalizes agreement with Heritage Developments Ltd.

Finance Minister Cathy Rogers announced the province is investing $4 million in repairs to the building. (Gabrielle Fahmy/CBC)

Part of the old Moncton High School will soon be converted into office space and the theatre will become a community arts centre, the provincial government announced on Thursday.

Heritage Developments Ltd. will purchase most of the property for $1 million, said Finance Minister Cathy Rogers.

The province will retain ownership of the heritage portions, including the 1,300-seat theatre, and spend about $4 million to renovate the space to occupational standards, said Rogers, speaking on behalf of Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser.

​"Arts, culture and heritage are an important part of what makes New Brunswick the best place to live, work and raise a family," she said.

"This project will identify the Greater Moncton region as the arts and culture hub of the Maritimes."

Jean Surette, executive director of Music NB, said he's hopeful there will be space not only for organizations, but also for artists.

"For pre-production, production, and hopefully presenting different things. Either on large scale — it's a big room in there … was the biggest room east of Quebec for a long time."

The facade of the 82-year-old Gothic Revival-style landmark building won't change, officials said on Thursday. (Karin Reid-LeBlanc/CBC News)

The provincial government reached an agreement in principle last summer to save and redevelop the building, avoiding demolition and maintaining the auditorium and gymnasium for community use.

That agreement has now been finalized, said Chris Evers, of Heritage Developments.

"The issue was just the amount of work that would be required. This building was built prior to there even being a building code in Canada," he said.

The 82-year-old Gothic Revival-style stone building sat vacant for nearly three years. It closed in 2015, when a new school was built on the outskirts of the city.

Heritage Developments will have to put nearly $10 million into fixing the old building, said Evers.

It's one of the most significant architectural landmarks in downtown Moncton, but it needs a new roof, has structural problems, mould and asbestos.

The company has until 2020 to finish repairs, then turn the non-heritage parts of the building into office space, officials said.

It's still looking for a tenant.

Once the theatre renovation is complete, the provincial government will transfer the theatre to Heritage Developments, under certain conditions, said Rogers.

"The agreement is that Heritage Developments will make the space available to community, arts and culture organizations at a cost that they can afford because they're non-profit."

With files from Gabrielle Fahmy

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