City council is hoping that federal infrastructure funding can accelerate Port Theatre expansion.
Nanaimo city councillors, at their meeting Monday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, unanimously chose to endorse the project from three options presented by staff as a January deadline approaches to apply to the federal Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.
A Port Theatre community performing arts centre has been planned for years and would consist of a 50-240-seat performance space and two rehearsal spaces. The project budget is $21.2 million. Other options staff suggested to council for infrastructure funding requests were a Harewoood Centennial Park youth park, a $780,000 project; or a new Maffeo Sutton Park playground, with two phases totalling $1 million. According to a staff report, senior levels of government will provide a maximum of 73.3 per cent of total project funding.
Bruce Halliday, general manager of the Port Theatre, urged councillors to take advantage of what he said was a rare opportunity to access federal funding and create short-term and long-term jobs in the city.
“This project matches up with the criteria for this funding very well, showing clear social and economic impact and increased accessibility for the entire community,” Halliday said. “It is as shovel-ready as is possible.”
Coun. Ian Thorpe said whereas Harewood Centennial Park has received a few improvements in recent years, Port Theatre expansion has been on the to-do list for many years.
“I think it’s a very, very worthwhile project to help revitalize our downtown, to stimulate the economy of our city even more and I think we’ll have a lot of spinoff benefits,” he said.
Coun. Sheryl Armstrong agreed, suggesting the Port Theatre expansion, more so than the other two options, is something for residents of all ages.
Coun. Don Bonner was also in support, but wondered if the city had a contingency plan in case the federal government offered some money, but less than expected.
“If they were to offer us less than the full requirement, they would come back to us to see if they could work out a funding arrangement with us,” said Wendy Fulla, the city’s manager of business asset and financial planning.
Coun. Zeni Maartman said she supported seeking funding for Port Theatre expansion, though she expressed reservations that by asking for more money, the city might be reducing its chances of receiving that money.
The city will endorse a funding request through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program’s community, culture and recreation stream for a Port Theatre community performing arts centre. The application deadline is Jan. 23.
“I’ll make a prediction: We’ll hear about this before the October election,” said Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog.