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City and Playhouse continue to study options for performing arts facility

by on April 23, 2014

The City of Fredericton and Fredericton Playhouse Inc. are continuing their work on figuring out the best way to address Fredericton’s performing arts infrastructure.

Last spring, the City partnered with Fredericton Playhouse Inc., the non-profit organization that manages the city’s major performance venue, to study what options are available to deal with the fact that the Playhouse is at the end of its useful life. A separate study received by Council in 2013 identified that replacing the nearly 50-year-old facility may be more feasible than refurbishing it to extend its life..

In an update to City Council, Wayne Burley, chairman of the joint feasibility study steering committee, said that the first phase of work is done and a second phase is underway. “We are using a logical process. Our first phase of work was about research. We asked some fundamental questions: What are the needs and aspirations of the community in terms of this kind of infrastructure; and how might they be addressed in a new performing arts centre?” explained Burley.

The first phase included extensive community and stakeholder consultation, an analysis of the market and the current Playhouse operations, research on best practices and what other municipalities are doing, and how cultural infrastructure projects might connect with broader community goals such as economic development and contributing to the downtown. Over 100 people attended a public workshop in October, demonstrating public interest in the issue.

The results of phase one has shown that the community’s needs and aspirations are greater than what the existing Playhouse can currently provide and pointed to a larger development that would incorporate multiple spaces to accommodate a variety of uses.

“We have some good data and some good insight into how and why we might move forward. Our next phase of work will closely examine specific options and we will be rigorously studying the potential for a variety of public and private contributors to make investments,” explained Burley.

The second phase of work began in March and will develop specific development concepts – matching them to available capital funding and long-term operational revenues and expenses – in order to find the most feasible and desirable project for decision makers to consider.

“Council continues to see this process as an important input. It is critical to develop a solution that fits the City’s financial capacity, leverages contributions from the other levels of government along with regional partners and inspires participation by the private sector” stated Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside.

The final report is expected to be delivered to City Council and the Playhouse Board of Directors later this year.

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