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Collingwood arts centre questions lead to council referral

Staff pitch two options for consultant-led approach on details like location, size, and scope of future arts centre
The town currently operates an outdoor performance arts venue in the Shipyards Amphitheatre (seen here on July 1), and also operates the Simcoe Street Theatre (100 seats).

While many are lobbying for an arts and culture centre in Collingwood, the site, size and scope of any centre built are still under debate, leading community stakeholders and the town to consider hiring an outside firm to determine the future of such a space.

During Monday’s corporate and community services standing committee meeting, councillors were given two options to consider when it comes to the next phase of building an arts and culture centre: either to spend $100,000 to continue the feasibility consultation work of NGL Nordicity Group, or to spend $150,000 to execute an RFP to hire a new consultant.

Both options would see a consultant narrow down options from the original study on the matter completed by Nordicity and presented to council in October 2021 and make a final recommendation on location, size and scope of a future arts and culture centre in Collingwood.

The first option would be estimated to take about six months, while the second is estimated to take about nine months.

“We’re looking to change direction a bit and move toward a consultant-led approach,” said Dean Collver, director of parks, recreation and culture with the town.

Rob Hart, chair of the Collingwood Arts, Culture, and Entertainment (CACE) Group, spoke to the recommendations on Monday, asking for a timeline to be added to the wording of the recommendation.

“We’ve been working on this diligently for almost four years now. CACE supports the report from the parks, recreation and culture department to secure the services of the experts to determine the location, size and content of an arts centre in Collingwood. We believe this is the best approach to make sure we get it right,” said Hart.

“We’re only going to get one shot at this.”

Either option would see the needed funds pulled from the town’s Arts and Culture Legacy Fund.

In October 2021, Nordicity Group first presented their 74-page study to council concerning the feasibility of building a Collingwood Arts Centre.

The study suggested the town should consider two options for a new arts centre.

Option 1 would be for a performing arts centre that held between 400 and 600 seats, as a more “intimate” option. The venue would be between 38,000 and 45,300 square feet, and be used primarily by community-driven activity with about 30 per cent “tour-based” activity. A costing estimate for this type of facility would be between $16 and $32 million.

Option 2 would be for an 800-seat venue of between 75,900 and 84,000 square feet. A costing estimate for this type of facility would be between $25 and $49 million.

The report also considered possible locations in Collingwood for such a facility. Many of the proposed locations would be downtown-adjacent, however, the consultants also discussed the possibility of locating a centre near Millenium Park or near the Georgian College’s South Georgian Bay campus.

This week’s recommendations seek to build on the findings of the existing study to include the development of rationalizations for market such as operational, financial, economic, and social-impacts of a facility. Further research would be done to consider whether Collingwood would be best served by amenities such as a space for a live performance theatre, secondary halls, workshop space, parking, public galleries and exhibition space, administrative offices, and classrooms/studios/rehearsal space.

On Monday, councillors voted to refer the options back to staff, with some councillors saying they had too many unanswered questions remaining before they could feel confident in making a recommendation.

“This is a decision that is significant to the community as a whole and it deserves a full conversation of council for their input,” said Acting Mayor Keith Hull. “I’m a little uncomfortable. We hired a consultant, and yet we have a second option to go to the open market. I need two weeks to formulate intelligent questions as to why we would move on from consultant A to hire consultant B.”

“I’m not 100 per cent clear on the difference of $50K,” he added.

Coun. Chris Carrier said he’d like to see further information on comparisons with other municipalities.

Acting Deputy Mayor Mariane McLeod asked questions about reference to a volunteer task force in the staff report that had two meetings prior to deciding further consultation was needed.

“Has this task force been disbanded? How is it possible they only had two meetings?” asked McLeod. “I thought we had decided we were going to lean on our citizens to help us out. I’m confused about how this came to pass.”

“When this comes to council, can we talk about how much was spent on the first batch of recommendations out of the Nordicity report?” she asked.

The feasibility study was part of the town’s 2020 budget process and $50,000 was approved by council for the study at that time.

“We’re talking about spending more tax dollars on this, but the task force could have done some of it. I’m confused about that,” said McLeod. “And who was on the task force? I don’t know that either.”

At the end of discussion, the committee voted unanimously in favour of receiving the report, and referring the two options to the next regular meeting of council for consideration.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 14 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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