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New and Improved Arts Court: 2014

July 2011

By Mike Levin

It’s been so long since I’ve attended a meeting of a government’s economic-development committee, I’d forgotten the sweet swish made by $1,000 suits.

That was today at City Hall, a gaggle of businessmen presenting the idea of “Invest Ottawa” to test the relatively new Council’s stand on entrepreneurial funding needed to make us a world-class city. The higher the numbers, the slicker the speaker and the more-fluent the praise directed at Council for its courage and foresight.

Courtiers paying homage: if you do what we ask, Ottawa will become a rich and powerful city.

Arts Court today. Courtesy of Google Images.

That was just the prologue. The main event was the arts community’s presentations to support the complete renovation of Arts Court. If you do what we ask, Ottawa will become a happier city.

These presentations weren’t slick. They were emotional, using the word “dreams” a lot and phrases like “I’ve been waiting for this (moment) for two decades.” There was almost a sense of appeal, as if speakers feared the committee might actually turn the proposal down. Creative people are always the most insecure.

The Arts Court deal is the closest thing to a slam dunk as is possible in municipal politics. Committee chair, and Mayor, Jim Watson concluded the meeting with this fact, basically telling his committee that the project is too attractive and too important to put off any longer. It’s also a very low piece of hanging fruit because the City doesn’t have to find new money to fund it. The committee approved the proposal unanimously.

Final decision rests with a Council vote next week (July 13). Planning and design will take two years; construction will take 15 months (figure that one out). The entire background was available online, but no more. If you really want it, email me at mike@unfolding.ca, and I’ll send you the PDF.

New Arts Court. Courtesy of the City of Ottawa.

The quick view is that by the time it’s completed around October 2014, it will have cost between $30 million and $35 million, coming primarily from the $12.1 million the City had set aside for a proposed concert hall and from government grants. The Ottawa Art Gallery, which won’t move to Lansdowne Park, will increase in size from 10,400 sq. ft. to 31,000. The Arts Court Foundation’s space will grow from 7,961 sq. ft. to 18,633. They’ll need it because both have to fundraise a $3.2 million contribution (no time frame given). There’s also an 18-story residential component that will be given to the private sector, which accounted for a couple of the $1,000 suits in attendance.

Arts Court Executive Director Linda Balduzzi told me that during construction, the foundation’s in-house activities won’t stop.

There will be lots of goodies: a University of Ottawa 120-seat black-box theatre, a 120-150-seat screening room, a revamped 350-seat theatre, a pretty cool looking lobby (agora) and way more space for the foundation’s resident companies that now tend to trip over each other and snarl when they meet in the bathrooms.

The whole project will eventually link into Rideau Centre and Street redevelopments, which means: No Free Parking.

2 Comments »

  • Chantale said:

    Love it…my only question is, where will the beer tent go during fringe? 🙁 Roof top deck? 🙂

  • MLevin (author) said:

    Definitely the Penthouse apartment, which i’ve heard will be set aside as the Arts Court Foundation’s official Den of Iniquity. It’s in the City’s plans. Trust me.

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