Fort St. James residents will soon be using a vacant building that used to get plenty of use before it fell on dark times.
A $250,000 grant from Northern Development Initiative Trust was announced Monday, completing the fundraising needed by the District of Fort St. James to establish a multi-purpose community centre.
"Fort St. James, one of the province's first established communities, doesn't have a community centre, which has forced the District to rely on its high school and elementary school gymnasiums for events," said NDIT spokesman Joel McKay. "The new community centre will help the District meet an existing demand for a space that can be booked or rented out for everything from graduation and wedding receptions to cultural events, film screenings, banquets and conferences."
It will be located inside a 5,000-square-foot building that, up until recently, operated as a church facility and houses a non-operational cinema.
Planned renovations to the building include the addition of moveable walls for subdividing the space, modifications to the ground floor to make it wheelchair accessible, the replacement of existing heating ventilation and air conditioning, electrical upgrades, and new spaces for offices, meetings and storage.
In addition to the grant, the community centre project has also received funding support from the District of Fort St. James and the Province of British Columbia's Towns for Tomorrow and Community Recreation programs. The project was identified by the Fort St. James community as one that would increase their ability to generate economic activity and uplift the standard of living for those who live and visit there.
"We look forward to the economic development, tourism and recreation opportunities that will be made available through this space for our community," said Fort St. James mayor Rob MacDougall. "The support of NDIT for our community centres comes at a perfect time as we solidify renovation plans for this project. The efforts of the community centre committee over the years have helped to move this project forward, and the funding from the Trust is well matched with that of a private donation from the Hoy family, contributions from the taxpayers of Fort St. James and support from the province."
The facility will service the residents of Fort St. James, the Nak'azdli Band, the Tl'azt'en Nation, the Yekooche First Nation and the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako.