This morning the Fredericton Playhouse announced that the Fredericton City Council has approved the expansion of the existing Playhouse’s Queen Street site as a location for a new regional performing arts centre.
Late last year the Fredericton Playhouse delivered their annual report to the City Council with a mixed bag of news: the 2016-17 season had been very successful, with the organization seeing an increase in activity levels by 14%, and high levels of fundraising and participation in community outreach programs. However, the facility itself is at capacity and in a progressively deteriorating state. Staff have gone so far as to say the Playhouse is at the end of its life.
“We’re pleased to report that we had a successful year,” says Playhouse Board President, Susan Holt. “We continue to see increases in our audience, with nearly a quarter of Fredericton residents attending the Playhouse this past year.”
“Over the past season, the Playhouse experienced two major heating failures within a six-month period,” says Playhouse Executive Director, Tim Yerxa. “It is impossible to predict when an unplanned shutdown due to a system failure could occur. This project remains a top priority for us and for the community we serve, and in the year ahead we hope to gain greater momentum in moving this project forward.”
Following a two-month public consultation period, Greg MacFarlane, Vice President of the Playhouse board, presented the board’s preferred option to the Fredericton City Council: to construct a new centre. Using the existing Playhouse site, the new centre would be constructed in phases and extended onto a portion of St. John Street.
The proposal for the project contained six recommendation from the Playhouse board, all of which were adopted by Fredericton’s City Council:
· Select the expanded Queen Street/St. John Street site as the location for a new regional performing arts centre;
· Approve an all-new construction development option that will be planned and designed in such a way as to reduce Playhouse closures as much as possible;
· Direct City staff to immediately conduct the necessary technical study of St. John Street to determine the best configurations of a reduced street width to accommodate the performing arts centre and to consult with the Legislative Administration Committee accordingly;
· Direct City staff to work in partnership with Fredericton Playhouse Inc. to develop a procurement strategy for a design team for the Playhouse board and City Council’s consideration;
· Approve a construction budget of $33 million (excluding soft costs, site preparation, planning, campaign costs, and contingencies) to be used as a guide to develop the design; and
· Work with Fredericton Playhouse Inc. to resubmit the request for capital funding from the Province of New Brunswick and the Government of Canada, with the updated site, development plan and project budget.
“We’re very pleased to have our recommendations approved by City Council,” MacFarlane said. “This project is about to get very real as we move forward with the design work. We are hopeful that our federal and provincial partners will also move quickly to confirm their investment so we can see shovels in the ground in 2019.”
With the approval for the expansion, MacFarlane says that Playhouse representatives intend to move quickly with their partners to complete the additional study work and to develop a process to hire a design team.
“Now that we have a confirmed site, we are excited to move forward at a more rapid pace, tackling the next phases concerning planning, design and funding.”