Arts Commons pitches $400M expansion plan

Arts Commons pitches $400M expansion plan

The board of directors of Arts Commons has scaled back plans for a major expansion and overhaul of the downtown performance centre, but it's not clear if the city will agree to help finance the now $400-million proposal.

Arts Commons wants to revitalize the facility in a two-stage expansion that would tie in with the city's plan to update the adjacent Olympic Plaza.

The plan envisions new facilities around the western and northern perimeters of the plaza and a residential tower at the northwest corner of the block at Seventh Avenue and First Street southeast.

Coun. Druh Farrell says there's no question the arts facility needs renovation but doesn't know where the money would come from.

"Arts Commons is an aging facility, and in many ways it doesn't work any longer, so they've been talking about a renovation for a very long time and so this isn't new to members of council," she said.

"Arts Commons has needed a refresh for many years and Olympic Plaza was built as a temporary plaza for a medal ceremony. It wasn't declared as a park until very recently so it was actually not zoned as a park and a lot of what we see there was built as a temporary measure."

Arts Commons made its pitch for funding earlier this week to city council's finance committee, which is doing preliminary work on the next four-year budget to be presented in November.

The complex is home to the Calgary Philharmonic, Alberta Theatre Projects, Theatre Calgary, One Yellow Rabbit, Downstage and hosts many other arts organizations.

It houses the Jack Singer Concert Hall, Max Bell Theatre, Martha Cohen Theatre, Engineered Air Theatre, Motel Theatre and the Big Secret Theatre.

The core of Arts Commons was built in 1985 as the Calgary Centre for Performing Arts — later named the Epcor Centre under a 10-year naming agreement. It is buttressed on the east and west by two historic sites — the circa-1917 Burns Building and the circa-1931 Public Building.