BMO building to be opened to the public

Nick Seebruch
BMO building to be opened to the public
The outside of 159 Pitt St. formerly the Bank of Montreal. (Photo : Nick Seebruch/Seaway News)

CORNWALL, Ontario – Cornwall City Council heard on Monday night that the public will be invited into the BMO building at 159 Pitt St. before renovations start.

The building was purchased by the City of Cornwall in May for $450,000, and on Monday night, Council approved a report that would see this building become Cornwall’s new Arts and Culture Centre.

Previously Council had endorsed the idea that the Cornwall Civic Complex be remodeled at a cost of $12 million. Administration reported to Council that the BMO building could be remodeled into the Arts and Culture Centre for $4 to $6 million.

“This has been a big topic of conversation,” said Cornwall City Councillor Bernadette Clement. “The public has a lot of questions, as they should about the purchase.”

The building will be used as the headquarters for the municipal election. Mark Boileau, General Manager for Planning, Development and Recreation said that this will be an opportunity to also introduce the public to the building and get their feedback on the City’s plan.

“During the time that it is headquarters for the election it is an opportunity to have the public come in and see the building to see plans that are still in draft form, to see we’ve done a lot of work with architects,” said Boileau.

Councillor David Murphy raised questions about how the renovation costs would be paid for.

“Why are we not looking towards an arts community to organize that,” asked Murphy. “The taxpayers shouldn’t be entirely on the hook for the renovations of this entire facility.”

Murphy suggested that at least 25 percent be community funded.

Councillor Elaine MacDonald said that there have already been some donations from the arts community, including donations from OBO Studios, The Seeker and Focus Art.

She also reminded everyone that the City has setup a trust fund, which can be donated for a tax refundable receipt.

As it stands now, the trust fund currently has $3,300.

Councillor Andre Rivette put forth the idea that the Municipal Accommodation Tax be used to help fund the arts centre. The Municipal Accommodation Tax is a 4 percent tax on hotel stays in Cornwall. Half of the revenue from that tax is to be used for a project that attracts tourists to Cornwall.

“We have not investigated that, but if you can find a relation between tourism and this facility, which I think you can, then yes,” said Boileau.

Elaine MacDonald put forward an additional motion at the meeting that would see the BMO building included on the Art Walk.

The Art Walk occurs once a month between June and October and opens several arts locations throughout Cornwall’s downtown and gives the public the opportunity to see art and meet local artists.

Administration would return with a report at the July council meeting on the feasability of including the BMO building in the Art Walk. The next Art Walk is July 26.

The BMO building will open as the municipal election headquarters in September.

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