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Feasibility study calls for new downtown performing arts centre to serve region

by on April 2, 2015

A feasibility study on performing arts infrastructure development for the region has determined a new 6,665 m2 (71,741 sq. ft) downtown facility, built to replace the existing Playhouse, is the preferred way to meet the needs of the region for the next 50 years.

The study, commissioned by the City of Fredericton and Fredericton Playhouse Inc., the non-profit organization that manages the existing 709-seat venue, took nearly two years to complete and was done in two phases. Its purpose was to respond to the end-of-life reality that the existing Playhouse faces and looks to find a feasible way to replace it.

The first phase looked at the existing and future needs for live performance infrastructure, what kinds of spaces would be required to address them, and how a new development might meet other community goals such as economic and downtown development. It also suggested factors that should be considered in selecting a site.

The second phase provided some specific development options and studied the funding requirement from public and private sources to build and operate a new performing arts centre.

“The process was exhaustive. We worked hard to engage the community on finding the best way forward,” says Fredericton Playhouse Board President Wayne Burley. “What we now know is that the next version of the Playhouse should be dramatically different from the one we currently have. The big shift in thinking is that we would not simply replace the Playhouse, but would build a new multi-venue centre that can provide a wider variety of uses.”

The “preferred option”, described in the study, is a new building with two major performance venues: an 850-seat main hall and a 300-seat flexible performance space with shared lobbies, amenities, and backstage functions. The capital cost of the new facilities is estimated at nearly $40 million.

PAC Concept Sketch at King and Regent

Two concepts for a new performing arts centre are shown.

Two concepts for a new performing arts centre are shown.

The study also states that a portion of the capital costs could be raised in the community through a major fundraising campaign, complimenting investments from various levels of government.

The consultants considered reusing the existing Playhouse, but deemed it unfeasible. A multi-million dollar renovation would not only come short of meeting the needs and goals of the region, but would also substantially reduce the Playhouse’s capacity by the time current building codes for life safety and accessibility are met.

The City of Fredericton has identified the replacement of the Playhouse as its top priority for new infrastructure. Its contribution to the project would likely cover only a portion of the costs, requiring other levels of government and the private sector to invest in the project for it to become a reality by 2017. Regional Service Commission 11 has also declared the project a priority for the region.

“This report gives us direction on a very complex, yet exciting future project for our region,” says Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside. “Now it’s time to engage other partners to move it forward. This is a project that has the potential to make a real statement about our community’s position as a creative, dynamic place to live and do business.”

The study was funded by the City, the Playhouse and the Government of Canada. Extensive community consultations informed the report at various phases through public meetings, online discussions, and interviews with community stakeholders.

Phase One – Final Report
Phase One – Appendices
Phase Two – Final Report
Phase Two – Appendices

  1. Jessie Thompson permalink

    SAVE THE EXISTING PLAYHOUSE! This is WAY too much money for a Province and a City already in BIG DEBT with resources stretched to the limit already. Also WHO are the driving forces BEHIND this idea? Who will PROFIT by it? These are all questions worth asking and probing very carefully. NB history is replete with financial and economic DISASTERS. This IS another one in the making.

  2. Mark Wright permalink

    I agree with the above comment. SAVE THE PLAYHOUSE!! Don’t we get that we are living way beyond our means already here in New Brunswick?? Let’s value and improve what we have rather than pull it down and build something incredibly expensive and beyond our means. Of course the costs will blow out as always….we all know the story…and the tax payers will be on the hook.

  3. The costs of renovating an old building such as this would be astronomical, certainly well above estimates as well. And to attract more shows and acts, all of the sound, electrical, etc., would need to be updated. This is not a bunch of money going to an unproven, fly-by-night outfit, it has been here for a long time, is used consistently throughout the year and is the one venue in Fredericton that adds a lot of value artistically and monetarily to the area. I agree that I would like to see the majority of the money coming from private sources.

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