Funding estimate for Fredericton arts centre jumps by $13M

·3 min read
A concept design for the proposed performing arts centre, designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects in Toronto.  (City of Fredericton - image credit)
A concept design for the proposed performing arts centre, designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects in Toronto. (City of Fredericton - image credit)

The funding estimate for the new Fredericton performing arts centre went up to $58.3 million, prompting city council to put a new funding plan in place.

The original funding estimate in 2019 was just over $45 million, but according to mayor Kate Rogers, this number jumped due to inflation.

"It's another reason why we have to get moving on this project now before that continues to increase and increase," said Rogers. "These are today dollars, so they need to get spent today while they still hold their value."

A report presented to council Monday says aside from inflation, the estimate was also affected by increasing material and labour costs because of COVID-19.

The report says the city will not be borrowing more than the planned $14 million for the project, despite the cost increase.

The shortfall will be covered by the federal Canada Community Building Fund, which was initially earmarked for a water and sewer project. That project will be funded by a joint provincial and federal infrastructure agreement called the Integrated Bilateral Agreement instead.

About $41 million is coming from the Canada Community-Building Fund, formerly known as the Gas Tax. The remainder of the cost will come from a $14 million city loan, a $3 million community donation estimation and a $100,000 donation from Oromocto.

Why a new performing arts facility?

At the council meeting, Sara DeGrace, the city's deputy chief administrative officer, said a 2012 facility assessment deemed the Playhouse "beyond its useful life." The city then made a new performing arts centre its number one infrastructure priority.

The facility will include one 850-seat and one 300-seat theatre that will share back-of-house facilities, backstage and loading areas, said DeGrace.

She said the centre is a "once-in-a-generation" opportunity and is economically and culturally the most important investment in the city's history.

The design process was headed by Diamond Schmitt Architects.

A downtown chunk of land at 560 King Street was purchased in 2021 by the city for $8.2 million, which was then earmarked for the new site of the arts centre.

Community impact

The project has been in development for around 10 years. For Rogers, this new centre is a game changer.

"The early design work that's being considered, I mean, it's really state of the art and it's what Fredericton as a capital city deserves," said Rogers.

She said it's a miracle that the building lasted over the 10 years in which the project was in the works.

Rogers said while there's some pressure with timing since the building needs to be replaced, they wanted to do it in a way that was affordable to the city's residents. She said they were mindful about how much they were putting towards the project since there are other projects that they want to contribute to as well.

Murray Jamer, the president of the Fredericton Playhouse board of directors, said the performing arts centre is a community hub.

Hannah Rudderham/CBC
Hannah Rudderham/CBC

"It's important for the arts community … but also people that like to go to performances," said Jamer. "It's also important for the whole community, for the business community, for the opportunity to attract new people to come to Fredericton."

He said the city has to make tough decisions about funding and that this project has been a long time coming.

"If not now, then when does it happen? It's not going to get any less expensive as we go into the future," he said.

Construction for the arts centre is set to begin as early as fall 2023.

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