The province says it will review a proposal put forth that would see the New Brunswick Museum expand its current space in Saint John’s Market Square.
The $22-million proposal comes from The Hardman Group, which operates Market Square. It says there is available space which already backs on to the museum.
“So the thought would be to expand the museum so that it could assume that extra undeveloped space and go from its current 63 thousand square feet to anywhere up to about 130 thousand square feet,” says Colin Whitcomb, executive vice-president of The Hardman Group.
Whitcomb says the original proposal was made about eight years ago, but it didn’t go anywhere.
“Now that there is no active development proposal from the museum we thought this is the time to bring this forward,” he said.
Work has been ongoing to come up with a new plan for the museum following a decision by the newly elected Blaine Higgs government to back out of the plan for a 100 million dollar facility on the Saint John waterfront. That building would have housed both the exhibit and research and collection centres.
Major renovations are needed for the current research and collection centre on Douglas Avenue, and museum officials have said the current exhibit centre has outgrown its space in Market Square.
NB Museum CEO Bill Hicks feels the Hardman Group proposal is one of many options going forward.
“Do you put everything under one roof, do you have two separate facilities?” said Hicks. “Those are the things…the board and the provincial departments we deal with are sort of grappling with.”
Structural issues have also plagued the Market Square location recently.
Hardman says the building is currently undergoing a major mechanical upgrade, which could coincide with the museum’s requirements surrounding heating, cooling and humidity issues.
“In a way there’s an opportunity now especially on the mechanical systems to integrate those with what the museum needs,” he said.
Time is of essence for the museum going forward. “I know the museum desperately needs to deal with the facility issues in one way or another,” said Hicks.
He hopes there will be more concrete knowledge of a plan going forward sometime in 2020.