Pro­posed project could draw big-name con­certs, but cost the mu­nic­i­pal­ity $1 mil­lion

StarMetro Halifax - - FRONT PAGE - ZANE WOOD­FORD

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.”



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.

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