Consultant look­ing at cul­tural hub, arts strat­egy down­town

The Prince George Citizen - - Front Page - Mark NIELSEN Cit­i­zen staff [email protected]­i­t­i­

What isn’t on the ta­ble is a $50 mil­lion or $70 mil­lion per­form­ing arts mul­ti­plex. — Sean Far­rell

The City of Prince George and the Com­mu­nity Arts Coun­cil have joined forces on a search for ways to en­hance the pres­ence of the arts in the city’s down­town.

The two are about to hire a consultant to work on a pair of projects – a 10-year down­town arts strat­egy and a fea­si­bil­ity study for turn­ing the CAC’s fu­ture home into a cul­tural hub.

It amounts to a happy con­ver­gence in CAC ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Sean Far­rell’s opin­ion.

“It was like, low and be­hold, these two projects are start­ing around the same time,” Far­rell said Wednes­day. “It would make sense for gov­ern­ment and busi­ness, or us, to be ef­fi­cient and lean and work to­gether so that we’re avoiding over­lap... so we de­cided to kind of col­lab­o­rate.

“We’re not merg­ing these two projects,” he added. “We’re work­ing to­gether re­ally closely on them and we’re go­ing to be work­ing with the same con­sul­tancy team on both projects.”

Arts car­ries an un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated but sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic wal­lop to the tune of $7 bil­lion a year in B.C., ac­cord­ing to Far­rell.

“It’s not an off-the-side-of-your-desk recre­ational thing some peo­ple play in,” he said. “It’s ac­tu­ally a big in­dus­try.”

Con­vert­ing that ac­tiv­ity into an eco­nomic ben­e­fit to the city is the fo­cus of the strat­egy.

“So look­ing at how we can do cul­tural place-mak­ing down­town, cre­ate spa­ces for artists to work, to en­gage, con­sume, pur­chase art, pos­si­bly a new per­form­ing space down­town or a con­cert hall – these are all the ques­tions that we’re go­ing to look at through our fea­si­bil­ity study and through the down­town arts strat­egy.”

In April 2018, it was an­nounced that the CAC will be mov­ing into the old BMO building at the cor­ner of Third and Que­bec once an ex­pan­sion has been com­pleted. The Farm­ers’ Mar­ket, which moved in that same month, is to re­main at the lo­ca­tion.

Far­rell said a cap­i­tal in­vest­ment anal­y­sis has been com­pleted and the fea­si­bil­ity study will look at how to fi­nance the project as well as the en­gi­neer­ing and pro­cure­ment.

“All the tech­ni­cal de­tails, so we have a plan to move for­ward,” he said.

The ar­range­ment was un­veiled dur­ing Mon­day night’s city coun­cil meet­ing. At the same meet­ing, coun­cil also voted in favour of es­tab­lish­ing a grant and re­serve fund for a per­form­ing arts cen­tre. In all, $83,900 will go into the re­serve, with $7,000 com­ing from the re­cently-dis­solved Prince George Re­gional Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre So­ci­ety and $76,900 com­ing from a one-time con­tri­bu­tion Ini­tia­tives Prince George, also no longer op­er­at­ing, had made to the cause.

The money is be used for work to­wards the cre­ation of a per­form­ing arts cen­tre, but Far­rell said any such fa­cil­ity will be on a much smaller scale than had been en­vi­sioned in pre­vi­ous years.

“What isn’t on the ta­ble is a $50 mil­lion or $70 mil­lion per­form­ing arts mul­ti­plex, which is what the per­form­ing arts cen­tre was sort of pre­scribed as years ago,” he said. “What we need to fo­cus on, with our new fa­cil­ity and a down­town arts strat­egy is mar­ket de­vel­op­ment. Let’s cre­at­ing a mar­ket­place, an econ­omy for lo­cal arts and cul­ture.”

The plan is to have a consultant hired by the mid­dle of next month and to have the work com­pleted in about a year.

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