Confederation Centre invites public to weigh in on planned $65M overhaul

This would be the new view looking down Richmond Street from Queen Street. (Abbott Brown Architects  - image credit)
This would be the new view looking down Richmond Street from Queen Street. (Abbott Brown Architects - image credit)

The public will have the opportunity to weigh in on a major overhaul planned for Charlottetown's Confederation Centre of the Arts at an open house later this month.

The proposed changes include substantial renovations to existing buildings and facades, and the addition of new spaces.

Phase 1 of the project — the Victoria Row side of the centre — will cost $65 million. CEO Steve Bellamy said construction for the first phase is expected to begin at the end of summer 2024, and finish up in 2026.

Phase 2, which doesn't yet have a projected timeline, will involve changes to the Grafton Street entryways to the art gallery.

Bellamy said the plans were five years in the making, and the hope is that the old library space will become a "national culture leadership institute," a first in the country aimed at both the creation of new works, and training for artists and industry professionals.

He said input received focused three main areas. expanded and more inclusive arts education programming, a greater contribution to the creation of new visual and performing artworks, and the centre's role regarding heritage.


Accessibility, environmental improvements

Abbott Brown Architects assisted in the redesign of the area, which is where the public library used to be.

"It's really important that the historic features of the building are maintained," he said.

"And at the same time, we wanted to make a number of improvements where things like accessibility and environmental impact were not the priorities in the 1960s that they are today."

Abbott Brown Architects
Abbott Brown Architects

The new design will have ground-level accessible entryways, more windows, solar panels and energy-efficient retrofits.

"What will look different from the outside is that on the plaza level there is a new large rehearsal hall, but it'll be a multi-use space for the community," Bellamy said.

"And then the entryway, which is currently a small doorway off Richmond Street, will be opened right up with a street level entryway ... into what is what was the middle of the old library, so very accessible."

Abbott Brown Architects
Abbott Brown Architects

Programming won't be affected

The federal government is expected to contribute $30 million, with another $20 million from the province and $5 million from the city. The centre would raise another $10-$15 million.

"It's a significant renovation to a national historic site. But you know, it goes entirely back into the community," Bellamy said.

Abbott Brown Architects
Abbott Brown Architects

"This is a not-for-profit centre and it will go into program expansion, more jobs and more programs and experiences for community and for visitors."

He said construction won't disrupt programming, and the Charlottetown Festival is expected to run as normal each summer.

"We don't know exactly what the construction schedule needs to be, but we're committed to working with them when that time comes on making sure that it has minimal impact on operations."

A public open house will take place in the former library space on March 14 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Abbott Brown Architects
Abbott Brown Architects