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Town staff, consultant, soon-to-be task force working on business case for arts centre

'The goal is to provide council with enough comfort to make a decision … understanding all the risks and opportunities that come with this decision,' says Collingwood's director of parks, recreation and culture
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Downtown Collingwood on a cloudy morning. Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

Collingwood town staff and a consultant are preparing a business case for a Collingwood arts and culture centre, which is aimed at helping a future council make a decision on the multi-million-dollar project. 

In October 2021, a feasibility study by consultant Nordcity Group Ltd. concluded Collingwood should consider building a theatre to seat 400 to 600 people or an 800-seat theatre, with pros and cons for each side. The project could cost anywhere between $16 million and $49 million based on early estimates from the feasibility study.

At that time, the Collingwood Arts, Culture, and Entertainment Group’s chairperson, Rob Hart, said the next step should be where and when to build the arts centre. 

For now, four town staff have been working with Nordcity to build a business case for the arts centre and create terms of reference for a task force to explore the matter further. 

Director of parks, recreation and culture Dean Collver told the corporate and community services standing committee on April 4 that work continues on the project, with invitations going out later this week to strike a task force. 

“There is momentum to this project,” said Collver. “A lot of work has been going on and we have a lot of work to do.” 

Collver noted the feasibility study did confirm public interest in the development of a centre, but more work is required to determine the economic impact and requirements of an arts centre. 

“There’s a business case to be built around the facility,” said Collver. 

The work of the staff group, Nordcity and a task force will also include developing a governance concept for the arts centre, and more research into the demand for the centre, diving deeper into the data collected in the feasibility study and fleshing out the assumptions made for the study to test them. 

“We want to provide credible and well-supported recommendations to council so that you will be able to see the bull’s-eye … with all the rationale behind it and be able to buy into that,’” said Collver during the virtual meeting. 

The work going on right now also involves creating a shortlist of possible locations for the centre. Collver said it’s likely staff can narrow it down to about three. 

Collver said he expects to present the business case to council within a year of the feasibility study’s conclusion. There was pressure from council and the public to get the report done sooner, but he said it shouldn’t be rushed. 

“This is a legacy building. It’s going to be around for 50 to 100 years, and doing it quickly was not going to get us to a place where we were confident we did all the steps correctly,” said Collver. “We are pushing hard on this. There are very few other projects where four committed staff are meeting weekly to move this forward.” 

He later confirmed those staff are not working full time on the project, as they still have other responsibilities in their job descriptions. 

Collver explained the economic impact of the centre, whether it’s tangible or otherwise, is important, because there’s the potential for the facility to be supported by taxpayer money, as the town’s arena and pool facilities are. 

“I can’t say this facility will or will not pay for itself at this point,” said Collver. “The goal is to provide council with enough comfort to make a decision … understanding all the risks and opportunities that come with this decision.” 

He said the team is on track to deliver the business case and funding options report in the fall.