By Barb McKay
The price tag for repairs and improvements to the Kincardine Centre for the Arts is steep, but local politicians agree the work has to be done to keep the building open.
Larry Walton of NA Engineering, the firm hired to carry out the project, presented a conceptual design of a revamped interior of the 140-year-old building during last Wednesday’s council meeting, along with a scope of work report. Extensive work was done to the Arts Centre’s exterior in 2010 and since then tenants of the building, including the Kincardine Theatre Guild, Bluewater Summer Playhouse and Victoria Park Gallery, have been asking the municipality to turn its attention indoors.
Last year, the municipality had mould removed from the basement but other health and safety concerns, including exposed wiring, have yet to be addressed. Groups that rent space in the building say the conditions are embarrassing, with stained carpets and torn ceiling tiles creating an eyesore for visitors.
Walton has been meeting with the Centre for the Arts committee, made up mainly of the building’s tenants, to understand what needs to be improved and changed in the building in order to come up with a design and cost estimates for the project. Mechanical and electrical upgrades, including a new heating, cooling and ventilation (HVAC) system, are expected to cost $350,000. The old fire hall would be transformed into new public washrooms at a cost of $275,000. Other items include interior renovations to the basement at $160,000; main floor renovations to the Scougall Gallery and offices, including structural changes and the addition of storage space at $300,000; a new stairwell enclosure to allow actors to travel between the basement and the theatre at $30,000; fire alarm upgrades at $25,000; and demolition expenses at $25,000. With a 15 per cent contingency fund of $182,000 and engineering and consulting fees of $170,000, the total cost of the project is expected to total $1,567,000. With HST, the cost would be $1,595,000. The design does not include space for a visitor information centre because the committee decided there isn’t room for it.
Councillor Jacqueline Faubert, who sits on the Arts Centre committee, said the group is thrilled to finally be at a point where improvements could be made.
“We are tenants, we pay rent, but we are also stakeholders and guardians of arts and heritage in the community,” she said, noting that the groups want a building that allows them to preserve arts, culture and heritage assets and one that they can show off proudly.
Bonnie Bryan of the Kincardine Theatre Guild said some improvements are needed sooner than later.
“We know the heating and ventilation are the biggest concerns,” she said. “We worry the mould remediation is a temporary thing and it will be back. Already people are complaining about air quality.”
“There is a pervasive odour that is seeping from the building,” Marilyn Clarke of the Bluewater Summer Playhouse added.
The committee members asked that council allow municipal staff to work with NA Engineering to come up with a phased approach to the renovations as soon as possible.
“We all joke that we’d like to be around when these renovations are done, so it would be nice to get moving,” Clarke said. “We are a strong economic force in the community and we’d like to continue to be. We have one recommendation; get it done.”
There is $465,000 remaining in the arts facility reserve fund that could go towards the project. Municipal staff reported that $275,000 from the tourism reserve fund could go to the public washrooms and $200,000 from the recent sale of the Annex building could also be used for the renovations. That would leave $655,000 left to be raised.
Councillor Mike Leggett said he had concerns that the scope of the work is too much of a patch-work approach.
“I never agreed to repair this building because I worried that the cost would be astronomical, and it’s getting there,” he said. “But I agree with the mayor (Larry Kraemer) when he said if we’re going to do it, let’s do it right.”
Leggett said he was concerned without a complete gut of the interior mould and air quality issues would continue to be a problem and the municipality would have to do more work down the road.
Walton said he never meant to give an impression that the renovations wouldn’t be done correctly. He pointed out that the building is old and will need work in the future, the same as any building would, like window caulking. But he said a new HVAC system will carry it through for a long time and will improve air quality. Faubert added that the plans are conceptual and that a geothermal system could also be an option.
Councillor Randy Roppel said the groups have waited long enough for interior renovations.
“We can either do the renovations or hold plays in the gazebo in Victoria Park,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to do things with the money we have to get it started.”
He recommended starting with the replacement of the HVAC system and renovations to the basement.
“People ask, how do we get this thing going? It’s simple; we get off our ass and do it.”
“I think we are doing it right with this proposal,” councillor Maureen Couture agreed. “We have to go forward in some fashion to get this done.”
She suggested that staff provide a recommendation on how to proceed financially with the project.
Deputy mayor Anne Eadie, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Kraemer, said she is concerned the cost to renovate the fire hall to create washrooms is too high. She wondered if it would make more sense to tear down the old fire hall and build new washrooms. Walton said building washrooms is expensive. He said the
Council requested staff to come back with a report that included a phased approach to completing the renovations.