Ottawa

Arts Court plan gets committee OK

Tuesday was a big day for the arts in Ottawa as a city committee approved a multi-million-dollar redevelopment of the downtown Arts Court.

Cost of the proposal could run to more than $40M

Tuesday was a big day for the arts in Ottawa as a city committee approved a multi-million-dollar redevelopment of the downtown Arts Court.

Arts Court is located on Daly Avenue in what used to be a courthouse.  It's home to dozens of arts groups, covering everything from theatre to dance and an art gallery. The people running Arts Court say there is a pressing need for expansion, including a 350-seat theatre and a 150-seat screening room.

"The current facilities are not arts facilities," said Arts Court chair Susan Annis. "They are an old courthouse, and they have helped us over the 20 years. But they are not arts facilities."

The redevelopment plan calls for a possible high-rise condominium to help provide financing, and the Ottawa art gallery would be relocated, possibly to Lansdowne Park, as part of the redevelopment there.

The Arts Court proposal was debated today by the city's corporate services committee.  The business development group in this area says it's the right thing to do for both the arts and nearby hotels and restaurants.

"It's a win-win combination that we've found, that we are able to increase attendance at cultural activities and in return also promote business opportunities at hotels and dining opportunities," said Peggy Ducharme, chief executive of the Downtown Rideau Business Improvement Area.

The cost of redevelopment could eventually reach more than $40 million. The city is recommending that a big chunk, some $12 million, could come from funds set aside for a concert hall, a project that has been floundering for years.

However, supporters of the concert hall are not giving up on it.

"I don't support that they should take the concert hall money which I helped raise and help divert it to another group," said Loretto Beninger, a concert hall supporter. "The concert hall is equally important as the Arts Court foundation."

The committee members, however, unanimously voted to proceed with the Arts Court redevelopment. 

The issue goes before full city council next Wednesday.

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