Volume 10 Week 10

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(Posted 4:30 a.m., Sept. 13)
Future Orléans Arts Centre unveiled to rave reviews
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

The future Orléans Arts Centre was unveiled during a public open house on Tuesday. Construction of the $36.8 million, 86,000 sq. ft. facility will begin next spring. Illustration provided

It's everything the east end's arts community had hoped for and more. The Orléans Arts Centre was finally unveiled to the general public on Tuesday and the initial reviews were off the chart as members of the local arts community got their first look at their future home.

"It's like when you haven't eaten for a long time and then you're given this huge big meal. You want to enjoy every bite," said Vintage Stock Theatre's former artistic director Susan Flemming.

The east end arts community has been waiting for a place to call their own for the past 21 years. The journey began in 1985 when a report commissioned by the former City of Gloucester recommended the construction of a community arts facility near Blair Road and Hwy. 174.

The idea was then kicked around for the next 16 years until a new study conducted in 2000 listed an east end arts facility as one of the top five priorities in the newly amalgamated City of Ottawa. After a lengthy struggle and a tremendous lobbying effort on the part of the local community, council gave the go ahead to establish a private public partnership to build an arts facility near the Orléans Client Service Centre on Centrum Boulevard and develop the adjacent Orléans Town Centre lands.

The fruit of that effort was unveiled on the second floor of the Client Service Centre last night complete with architectural drawings and artist renditions of the arts centre's exterior and the inside of the concourse and the 500 seat theatre.

"It's stunning. I'm ecstatic," said Christine Tremblay who has been part of the process for the past 21 years as executive director of Arts Ottawa East and the Gloucester Arts Council. "It's been so long in coming, no one in the arts community believed it would happen anymore and now we have diagrams and people can see for themselves that it's really going to happen."

MIFO artistic director Patrick Bourbonnais was also excited over the prospect of moving into the state-of-the-art facility.

"Finally, our vision has pictures. We've been talking about it for so long, to get to this point is pretty exciting," said Bourbonnais who along with former MIFO president Jacques Briand were instrumental in getting the francophone cultural organization to join forces with local arts groups to finally move the arts centre to the front burner.

Having the Arts Centre will mean a number of local arts groups like the Gloucester Pottery School, which has been operating out of the basement of the Cyrville Community Centre, will be able to expand their programming.

Lennis Poupore, who is the president of the Orléans Young Players board of directors, says the theatre school will be able to double the number of classes it currently provides and Visual Arts Centre Orléans executive director Yvonne Wiegers says the art school is already planning expansion in anticipation of their moving into the new building.

Bourbonnais says MIFO's goal is to stage between 50 and 60 professional musical and theatrical performances at the new arts centre compared to the 20 events they're currently able to stage at the Centre Culturel d'Orléans on Carriere Street.

Construction of the 86,000 sq. ft. facility is scheduled to begin next spring. If everything goes according to schedule it should be completed by next fall or early 2008. Besides a 500-seat performing arts theatre, the building will included space for the visual arts, a large municipal art gallery, a pottery school, rehearsal space, a smaller 100-seat theatre and administration space for Arts Ottawa East, MIFO and any number of other local arts groups and organizations.

Architect Phil Doyle says a lot of thought went into the design of the Arts Centre which will be a social and cultural gathering place for the entire east end.

"The idea was to try and tell the story of the east end and the evolution and rebirth of the town centre," said Doyle who is a native east-ender. "It's not just a performing arts theatre, it's a synergy of various arts groups and disciplines which will be in close proximity to each other."

The most striking feature of the building will be the glass facade which will be made up of more than a hundred pieces of art glass.

"The intention is to work with local artists to tell a story in the glass. It will be absolutely unique," said Doyle. "At night the light will come through the glass to create a glowing effect and during the day the light will be coming in through the glass and illuminate the entire lobby."

The projected cost of the project is $36.8 million which will be covered by the private sector partner formally known as the Orléans Town Centre Partnership (OTCP) which will assume $12 million of the cost in exchange for the deed to the Orléans Client Service Centre building and the surrounding lands. The city will then enter a 30-year lease agreement with the OTCP for the Client Service Centre and the Arts Centre equivalent to OTCP's financing costs for the remaining $24.8 million.

The city has also agreed to spend $3 million to help cover the cost of servicing the site and will exempt the OTCP from paying any develop.m.ent fees, property and education taxes and land transfer taxes on City-occupied space within the Arts Centre. All other lands within the Orléans Town Centre project will be subject to the normal fees and taxes.

Besides the Arts Centre, the first phase of the develop.m.ent will include an 80-room hotel/motel; 140 seniors condominium units; 100 retirement home units; 25 town homes; 112 stacked town homes; 112 new apartment units; 51 affordable housing units; a pool and gym expansion on the neighbouring YMCA; 23,000 sq. ft. of office space and 30,000 sq. ft. of mixed use commercial space which will include a new home for the Orléans-Cumberland Community Resource Centre.

The total value of Phase 1 including the full cost of the arts centre is pegged at $189 million. The remaining lands will be built out through 2015 during Phase 2 and 3 and will include additional apartments, stacked town homes, office space and a parkade for a total value of $220 million.

The direct financial benefit to the community is estimated at $75 million in terms of payroll, purchased supplies, sub-contracts and equip.m.ent rentals during construction; $40 million in develop.m.ent charges and realty taxes over the course of the next 30 years; 49 new jobs per month during the 18 month construction phase; and 300 new jobs associated with the construction of the rest of Phase 1, 2 and 3.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)


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