Fredericton council approves plan to find design team for performing arts centre

Fredericton council has taken the first step towards launching the hunt for the team that will design the city's new performing arts centre.

City still waiting for funding commitments from federal and provincial government for the design phase

The Playhouse is set to be torn down, with a new performing arts centre built on that property. (Philip Drost/CBC)

Fredericton council has taken the first step towards launching the hunt for the team that will design the city's new performing arts centre.

At Monday night's council-in-committee meeting, councillors approved the procurement strategy that will be used to select the successful design team. 

"The design component of a new performing arts centre for the community is a really critical critical piece. We want to make sure that we get it right," said Tim Yerxa, executive director of the Playhouse.

"It's a generational project, and so choosing the right team is of paramount importance."

A board made up of city staff and Playhouse board members will review design applications and draw up a short list of three or less.

Those design teams can submit a maximum of three designs, and will be paid $35,000 for each design. The design team awarded the contract will have 50 weeks to come up with a final design.

Yerxa said there aren't any preconceived thoughts on what it will look like, just what it will need.

"It just looks like a table on a piece of paper. It will be up for a professional design team, architects engineers and so on, to be able to take that and actually turn it into the design of a building," said Yerxa.

Who pays?

The city isn't starting the procurement process yet. It's still waiting for confirmation of funding from the federal and provincial government.

The process is expected to cost about $4.2 million. Mayor Mike O'Brien said the city could dip into its own funding allocation to pay for the design plan if it needs to.

"Depending on feedback from other levels of government, that's something we could consider, " said O'Brien, adding it's not his first choice. 

"At this point we would like that to be cost shared."

Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien said the city could end up paying for the entire design phase if needed. (Philip Drost/CBC)

The plan for the new performing arts centre is to tear down the current Playhouse and rebuild on that property. 

Since council made that decision, staff has found it won't be easy to stagger the work to allow the Playhouse to remain open during construction of the new centre.

Yerxa said a few third parties looked at the project, and indicated the phased construction could be challenging.

"They basically just sent a flag to say 'you know there's not a lot of room here for construction,' so depending on the way that it's designed, it may or may not be more difficult to achieve the phasing," said Yerxa.

About the Author

Philip Drost

Philip Drost is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick.