Nova Scotia

Sydney's new $12M arts centre going ahead without CBRM money

The project organizers say much of the money they've raised so far must be spent by the end of March.

With millions needing to be spent by March, New Dawn Enterprises banks on municipality coming through

The former Holy Angels convent will keep its heritage exterior, but the insides of the 130-year-old building will be fully renovated. (Holly Conners/CBC)

A major renovation project to create Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Centre for the Arts, Culture and Innovation is going ahead.

The board of Sydney's New Dawn Enterprises, the private organization behind the initiative, met Friday. Board members were unsure whether to proceed without a capital commitment from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

In December, the non-profit asked the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to contribute $1.5 million to the $12-million project.

CBRM deferred its answer until after the municipality's 2018 budget talks. The municipality did agree to a property tax concession for the soon-to-be-renovated building.

"We believe the council is behind us. They believe in the project," said Steve Lilley, board chairman for New Dawn Enterprises. "Otherwise they wouldn't have done this."

Millions must be spent by March

Lilley said New Dawn Enterprises already has $9.2 million in place — $3.2 million from the provincial government, $5 million from the federal government and $1 million from New Dawn.

"We came to the conclusion that they've come this far with us, we believe they're going to come the rest of the way with us," said Lilley. "We said, 'Let's go, we've got a lot on the line here, it's a big project and we want to get it done.' So we've decided to move forward."

Steve Lilley said the New Dawn Enterprises board must spend much of the money before March ends. (CBC)

New Dawn bought the former Holy Angels High School and adjacent convent in Sydney's north end several years ago. 

Lilley said much of the money they've raised must be spent by the end of March.

"Architect and design drawings are done, so it's well underway," said Lilley. "We've made that commitment."

He hopes CBRM puts up the money.

"Talk around the table is a positive attitude that it's going to happen," said Lilley. "That said, we can't predict for sure."

Lilley said the 40-year-old community economic development organization will make it happen.

"New Dawn has always found its way to get things done," he said. "If the worst situation happens and the council says no entirely, then we'll have to have another conversation. We're positive, though."

This is what the arts and cultural centre is expected to look like once it is complete. (DTAH and Trifos)