ELEVATE THE ARTS
Proposed project could draw big-name concerts, but cost the municipality $1 million
Proposed facility could bring big name concerts — but would cost Halifax taxpayers $1 million
A proposed performing arts centre could bring in the kind of concerts Halifax is always missing, but it would cost municipal taxpayers $1 million.
The LINK Performing Art Centre project would occupy 84,000 square feet of the former World Trade and Convention Centre. Replaced last year by the new Halifax Convention Centre, it’s the building across Argyle St. from Halifax City Hall now owned by Armco Capital, best known lately as the developer behind the Willow Tree project.
The plan is to create a multidisciplinary performance hall that holds 1,800 people, a media and virtual reality production studio with offices and support space, two dance studios, a 160seat cinema, a café fronting on Argyle St., plus office space for cultural non-profits and startups.
The entire project, set to be complete by spring 2020, would cost almost $13 million. More than $5 million in funding is expected from the federal government, along with about $4.5 million from provincial government.
Halifax was being asked for as much as $1.3 million. The latest proposal is for a $1-million contribution from the municipality. The money would come from the general contingency reserve, which is essentially the municipality’s savings account.
Council’s community planning and economic development committee held a special meeting on Thursday to consider the proposal. The committee recommended unanimously in favour of granting $1 million to the nonprofit partially behind it, the Link Performing Arts Society. Next, it heads to council’s audit and finance standing committee,
likely next week, and then to regional council for a final decision, likely sometime in December.
“It’s a tough time to come in here with a budget request right after our budget meeting that was so contentious,” Coun. Waye Mason said during the meeting.
“I feel really good about this working though. I feel like this is an executable project.”
Mason, who used to work in the concert business and taught a music business program at the Nova Scotia Community College, said the performance hall in the space could mean that big names who typically skip Nova Scotia might start stopping here.
“Right now, there are no venues that are purpose-built as venues for concerts,” Mason told reporters after the meeting.
“When you rent a space like the Forum Multipurpose Room, you have to bring in a stage, and bring in a lighting truss, and hook up the lights, have an electrician connect you to the power grid, bring in the PA, and bring in all the barriers.”
In a city like Montreal, where Mason said governments have invested in this kind of space, those things come with the venue.
“So, the cost of the same show
being done in Halifax in the Multipurpose Room versus the same show being done in Montreal, the artist is making $6,000 less than they would in Montreal, after 14 hours driving to get here,” he said.
“I think if we have that venue, that means there’ll be more money on the offers. We’ll see more bands come here.”
Municipal culture and events manager Elizabeth Taylor made similar comments.
“For a lot of musical performances, an 1,800 to 2,000-seat space is seen as a real need in this city,” she told the committee. “A lot of promoters bypass Halifax because we don’t have this amount of seating.”
“IF WE HAVE THAT VENUE, THAT MEANS THERE’LL BE MORE MONEY ON THE OFFERS. WE’LL SEE MORE BANDS COME HERE.” Councillor Waye Mason
Marc Almon and his business partner Rob Power (not pictured) have big ideas for the WTCC space.
An architectural rendering of the exterior of the proposed Link Performing Arts Centre in Halifax, as seen from the corner of Argyle St. and Carmichael St. The entire 84,000-square-foot project, set to be complete by Spring 2020, would cost almost $13 million.