The Walkerville Arts Centre is one step closer to becoming a reality

The old Monarch Mattress building in Walkerville used by arts groups on an ad hoc basis since the store closed up a few years ago. The new owner's goal is to turn it into a full fledged Walkerville Arts Centre.

City of Windsor standing committee recommends the project receive a grant

The old Monarch Mattress building on Wyandotte Street E. is intended to become the Walkerville Arts Centre. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

The old Monarch Mattress building in Walkerville used on an ad hoc basis since the store closed up a few years ago, but owner Mary Lambros wants to turn it into a full fledged arts centre.

Lambros also owns Olde Walkerville Theatre. She has been working with theatre project manager Jonathan Renaud on this transformation.

The project has been several years in the making — and thanks to a recommendation from the Development & Heritage Standing Committee on Monday night, it's another step closer to completion.

The committee recommended the project be allowed to participate in the Small Business Investment Grant Program under the city's Economic Revitalization Community Improvement Plan (CIP).

"We're super excited about it," Renaud said.

"It's been four years since we've had this building, so 2015. So we're excited to finally start getting the ball rolling and eventually see this project through."

The grant recommendation still requires city council approval. 

'We need more amenities'

The project plan includes a 100-seat theatre, three retail spaces, two apartments, an internet cafe, a lobby and an office space, Renaud explained. 

He said the retail spaces will be affordable for artists starting out, or for small start-ups. The goal of the small theatre is to make it accessible and affordable for artists who are also just starting out.

Project manager Jonathan Renaud says he's excited to make the dream of Walkerville Arts Centre a reality. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Ward 4 Coun. Chris Holt said the project should bring a lot to the neighbourhood.

"We need more amenities in the neighbourhood that people want to come and visit," he said.

"I give Mary a lot of credit. She's got a lot of ideas that only build on the success of Walkerville."

Renaud said it's been challenging getting the centre up off the ground, because they've been trying to do it with as little funding as possible. But with the grant, it will hopefully help "make the whole dream come true."

He explained that right now, they've been putting things together in phases. 

The goal is to have the theatre space up and running in May, in time for the Fringe Festival. 

Restoring the building

Renaud hopes to have the apartments and retail spaces ready by fall.

The goal is to restore the building to what it looked like when it used to be a pool hall in 1914, project manager Jonathan Renaud explains. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

The other goal is to rejuvenate the space back to its former glory, when it was a pool hall 100 years ago, Renaud said.

"We're hoping that this grant can help fund the facade, to restore the facade, the three individual-looking buildings and make it look like it did in 1914."

Ultimately, Renaud said they want the centre to become a cultural hub that supports local artists in Walkerville.

This grant they applied for would allow the project to receive an annual grant up to 10 years.

The funding would cover any increase in municipal tax levy resulting from a property assessment increase related to eligible use — in this case the performing arts facility. 

In about a month, city council will decide if it wants to approve this grant.


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