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Photos courtesy Arts Commons

Plans for potential upgrades to Arts Commons under way

By Troy Hasselman, March 22 2019 —

A 10–15 year plan to upgrade the Arts Commons’ facilities known as the Arts Commons’ Transformation Project (ACT) is in progress, after Calgary City Council gave conditional approval on March 4 with assessments surrounding the upgrades currently taking place. The upgrades comprise four major projects that will restore and upgrade the Arts Common facilities in Calgary’s downtown.

Arts Commons’ plans for the project to be undertaken in two phases that will address different aspects of the upgrading while still contributing to the overall goals of the project.

“There are four main objectives of the ACT,” says Tasha Komery, communications and marketing director at Arts Commons. “The first is sustainability, by increasing revenues in our buildings. The second is resiliency, ensuring that Arts Commons’ infrastructure requirements are renewed in a responsible manner that meets current and future demands. The third is accessibility, aligning the social and physical requirements of Arts Commons for a diverse array of people. The fourth is to increase capacity in order to meet the demands of our growing city.”

The ACT hopes to reinforce the role that arts plays in Calgary and provide a space that offers a platform for artists.

“ACT will help us provide more support and space for visiting and local artists, as well as increased access for our community members. Arts organizations are essential elements of vibrant and livable communities,” says Komery. “ACT will also diversify our economy and result in 989 permanent jobs, over $95M infused into the local economy annually and over $300M to our GDP. Healthy arts facilities attract visitors and talent, drive the economy and support innovation.”

The first phase of the project looks to add new facilities to the Arts Commons’ complex on the west side of Olympic Plaza.

“This will include three new purpose-built, versatile venues, including a 1,200-seat flexible theatre, a 250-seat theatre and a 100-seat theatre,” says Komery. “Our current facility is operating at capacity. We turn away on average 600 clients every year because we don’t have space. The new venues will fill these gaps.”

The second phase of the project will look at upgrading the facility’s current technology.

“We are at the end of life for much of the technology in stage, sound and lighting. We are also in a different era, where the architecture of the facility is too closed and complex for today’s visitors,” Komery says. “While phase two will not expand the footprint of the facility, it will address the need for more open, fluid and usable space and update the facility to meet current technologies.”

In order to determine the economic feasibility of these projects, the Arts Commons’ Advisory Council (ACAC) held its first meeting on March 12 to fully review the project and its options for funding and timing.

There’s still a lot of work to be done before the project is finished, a task that will need collaboration and funding from city council and the provincial and federal governments, among other considerations.

“Commitment from the city for phase one is just one step in the process,” Komery says. “ACT needs funding from all three levels of government and we need clarity on how we will address the $71 million in funding needed for phase two. We’re working closely with council and city administration to refine funding options and timing for the project.”

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