CORNWALL, Ontario – At a Special Meeting on Monday, March 8 Cornwall City Council received a report on what a new arts and culture could look like, how much it would cost, and how it might operate.
In 2018 the City of Cornwall purchased the old Bank of Montreal at 159 Pitt St. for $450,000 with the intention of turning it into an arts and culture centre.
A feasibility study done by the City of Cornwall that summer estimated that renovating the building to meet the needs of an arts centre would cost between $4 million and $6 million.
GRC Architects was hired by the City of Cornwall to design their vision for the space.
In their presentation on Monday night, GRC presented a number of recommendations for renovating the space including adding a skylight, a multi-use space that can be used as a blackbox theater, arts studios and display spaces.
Costs have risen since 2018 however. Construction costs alone have risen by an estimated nine per cent alone. Additionally, further investigation into the soil underneath the building was found to be of low quality, adding between $80,000 and $180,000 to the project.
In total, GRC estimates that the project could cost as much as $7,388,600. That cost could be offset by some of the money raised from the community. The Cornwall Arts Centre Fund has already raised over $875,000.
Additionally, the arts centre will not be a money maker for the City of Cornwall, at least not directly. Recreation Director Jamie Fawthrop estimates that even with space rentals and user fees, the arts centre would still operate at a nearly $170,000 annual deficit.
Councillor Carilyne Hébert argued that the arts centre is an example of a quality of life service that the city could provide.
“We are not in the business of making money, but we are in the business of providing services and improving quality of life,” she said.
GRC consultant Jennifer Healey stated that the arts centre being located downtown could help support other businesses in the neighbourhood.
“The greatest aspect of the building in my opinion is the location,” she said. “To have something like this so centrally located the opportunity to support neighbouring businesses to the area I think is fantastic.”
A few councillors seemed excited about the project and eager to see it move forward.
“It is truly exciting,” said Councillor Elaine MacDonald.
“We were known in the past as the armpit of Eastern Ontario … and this is part of our re-branding exercise,” said Councillor Glen Grant. “Everybody wasn’t happy with the Aquatic Centre or the Benson Centre, but they’ve become attractions to our community.”