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Halifax council approves $250,000 in funding for Bus Stop Theatre Co-Operative

The Bus Stop Theatre's executive director, Sébastien Labelle, poses in front of the theatre on Gottingen Street. Jesse Thomas / Global News

Halifax Regional Council has approved $250,000 in conditional funding for the Bus Stop Theatre Co-Operative to help them purchase the space on Gottingen Street it currently calls home.

Council voted 15 to 1, with only Coun. Matt Whitman voting against the motion, to approve the one-time contribution that’s earmarked for the purchase of 2203 Gottingen St. and 2268 Maitland St. by the non-profit.

The successful vote was met by a round of applause from supporters of the theatre who attended Tuesday’s meeting at Halifax City Hall.

READ MORE: Coming to Halifax council: Bus Stop Theatre funding, Lake Banook improvements

The co-operative’s executive director Sebastien Labelle said that the funding is a “huge step” in their campaign to secure the future of the theatre.

“We’ve divided our project into a phased approach,” Labelle said.

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“Right now, we’re focusing primarily on purchasing the properties in order to secure what we have and prevent the closure of the theatre.”

The closing date for the building’s sale is July 30, 2020.

In June of last year, the co-operative had initially asked council for $500,000 in funding. Although that move was swiftly rejected, council did decide to work with the theatre to create a solution.

“I know it’s not the funding that the Bus Stop theatre was looking for initially but it’s something and I think it’s significant,” said Coun. Lindell Smith, whose district is where the theatre is based.

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Now, with council’s approval on Tuesday, the payment will be phased-in over a two-year period and the project will look to secure funding from other levels of government.

The federal and provincial governments have been asked to contribute $355,000 each, while private donors will need to kick in $250,000, according to a feasibility study conducted by municipal staff.

Manager of Culture Elizabeth Taylor said on Tuesday that the other levels of government were waiting for council’s approval before they would accept applications by the co-operative to secure funding.

Although the province is unable to fund the purchase of the building itself, they told municipal staff that they’d be willing to foot construction and renovation costs.

Click to play video: 'The Bus Stop Theatre on Gottingen St. is going up for sale' The Bus Stop Theatre on Gottingen St. is going up for sale
The Bus Stop Theatre on Gottingen St. is going up for sale – May 28, 2019

Lara Lewis, vice chair of the co-operative and performer at the Bus Stop Theatre, said the theatre is important for the municipality’s arts scene.

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“There aren’t a lot of spaces that are financially feasible for, especially young and emerging artists, to rent and perform in so it has been really critical in developing some people’s careers,” she said.

In total, the cost of the project is projected to be $1.21 million, which includes building and land purchase expenses, construction and development costs, a contingency fund and administration and fundraising support.

It’s a significant reduction from the project’s original budget which estimated a $6.5 million cost.

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