A proposed $13-million arts centre in downtown Halifax is closer to fruition, with the announcement of more than $10 million in federal and provincial funding.
The Link Performing Arts Centre would be an arts and culture hub at the former World Trade and Convention Centre across from Halifax City Hall and the Grand Parade.
The proposal includes an 1,800-person performance hall, a media production studio, two dance studios, a 160-seat cinema, a creative entrepreneurs centre, a storefront box office and a cafe on Argyle Street.
“It became obvious that this was something extremely important for the community,” Federal Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez told reporters Monday about the decision to fund the project.
Rodriguez appeared with his provincial counterpart Leo Glavine to make the funding announcement at a news conference.
Rodriguez said $4.5-million would come from the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund, while Glavine said the province would contribute $2.79 million. Another $2.9 million was also committed through the province’s Invest Nova Scotia Fund.
Rodriguez said he believes the proposal of a “hub” has the potential to grow the arts within the city and province as a whole.
“The way it works in different cities is the interaction between the groups, between people from different fields – you can do magic with this.”
Developer Armco Capital, which owns the property, has contributed more than $2 million for capital improvements, while the last piece of the funding puzzle is a $1-million commitment that is expected to be voted on by Halifax Regional Council on Tuesday.
“I think it will happen,” said Glavine. “I think the City of Halifax from the mayor down realize that the cultural economy has been growing over the last decade and this is going to give it even greater momentum.”
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The Link Performing Arts Society says the centre would provide 16 full-time jobs, present over 900 events a year, and numerous opportunities for the employment and promotion of local and visiting artists.
Marc Almon, of Culture Link CIC, said although the funding over three years would get the centre on its feet, it is expected to be self-sustaining from 2021 onwards through a blend of non-profit and for-profit use.
“This is going to be an extraordinary venue that we think will be a really good opportunity for us to work with the private sector in garnering funds for not only the facility itself, but also the programming,” said Almon.
Almon said the centre would cover 82,000 square feet – about half of the building’s existing space.
“They (Armco) have agreed to below-market rent, which is another key element to us having a self-sustaining complex. We have in place a plan to operate here for 20 years so we become a reliable tenant for them.”
The operational funding from Invest Nova Scotia is meant to support business startups for cultural entrepreneurs. The money will support 10 new office spaces, workshops, and business advisory services.
Invest Nova Scotia vice-chair Colette O’Hara said the arts hub is exactly the kind of project the fund is meant to support.
“We are looking for ideas that are rooted in collaboration and that will ultimately make an entire sector more competitive or more productive,” O’Hara said.