COVID puts Community Arts Council plan on hold

While work has begun on the neigbhouring Elizabeth Fry housing complex for women and children, the Community Arts Council's long-running quest to move to a new home remains in a COVID-19-induced holding pattern.

CAC executive director Sean Farrell said a "very thorough" feasibility study centred on redeveloping the old BMO building at Third Avenue and Quebec Street into a new creative hub has been completed.

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But it occurred just as the pandemic took hold and thanks to the development and all it has entailed, the city is in a major financial bind.

"The city needs to figure out what its strategic priorities are and (work out) an updated 10-year capital spending plan and that needs to be done in the context of pretty significant economic pressures that the city is facing," Farrell said.

"We're aware of that and we'll be going through the process with the city this fall to see where our new building can fit in."

Farrell declined to provide further detail on what is in mind, other than to say that when city council sees the plan and the price tag, it will sell itself.

"It's a really amazing plan and it's probably one of the most cost-effective projects that the city could even envision right now, but I won't get into anymore of those (details) until we actually get in front of council," Farrell said. "Everyone's just been fully occupied with dealing with the crisis."

In the interim, he said the CAC continues to make do with its current home at 2880 15th Avenue.

"Studio 2880 was built long before some of the physical considerations around social distancing but our user groups are all here, they're all really working hard on safety plans and re-imagining operations based on the current restrictions," Farrell said.

"We have a waiting list of people wanting to come in and use space here, so we're just managing this new set of expectations that people have around accessing sites."

That plan to move to the spot was first announced in April 2018. The Farmers' Market, which moved in that same month, is to remain at the location.

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