BACKGROUND / DISCUSSION
In 2010 Sierra Planning and Management was engaged by the City to develop a Culture Plan for Cornwall and the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. In June 2011, Sierra Planning and Management completed the "Building the Culturescape In Cornwall and the Communities of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry". A key process to the establishment of the Culturescape document was the creation of an extensive stakeholder list which included as many people/organizations/community groups as possible involved in arts and culture in Cornwall and the United Counties. One of the key themes that emerged from the Culturescape study was "the need for a publicly identifiable place which is recognized by the entire community and which can act as a Centre for training, production and experience of cultural activities and products." The final plan recommended the creation of a regional Arts Council and development of a multi-functional Arts and Culture Centre. As a result of this recommendation, in 2012, the City established the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee.
In September 2015, the City hired +VG Architects and Sierra Planning and Management to undertake the Feasibility Study for an Arts and Culture Centre. A Steering Committee consisting of various representatives from Cornwall's arts and culture community (Your Arts Council, Arts and Culture Advisory Committee, Centre for the Arts Collective/Collectif, and one lay appointee) as well as City staff as resources, was formed to provide guidance and oversight throughout the study process.
Public Consultation, Programming, and Site Selection
A key component of the feasibility study process was public consultation. A link on the City's website to provide the public with information on the process went live on January 29th, 2015. An online survey was made available on the website for the public and stakeholders to provide input. The online survey required the public to answer questions related to culture, programming, and site selection. Using the stakeholder list established as part of the Culturescape report, notices were sent to all stakeholders and advertisements were published in local media inviting the public to participate in the first Public Open House on February 24th, 2016, as well as complete the online survey. Hard copies of the online survey were made available to those in attendance at the first Open House, as well computers were set up for those residents who wished to complete the online survey while at the Open House.
The Consulting team compiled the public comments and feedback collected through the first consultation process and identified common themes that were incorporated into a conceptual list of programming spaces (black box theatre, back of house, main entrance hall, art gallery, art room, music room, servery, and offices) to be included in the proposed Arts and Culture Centre. This initial consultation process produced a list of suggested site locations (20) as well as a list of key factors that the public identified as being most important when considering potential site locations. The following is a list of site selection factors that the public identified (beginning with the most important):
Of the 20 properties that were originally considered, 10 sites were considered to have the most potential. Each of these 10 sites were assessed based on the key site selection factors in combination with the programming space requirements and potential for long term growth. The site evaluation process identified 4 "Top site options", and some conceptual renderings were produced for the Civic Complex site which was deemed to be the "best option". The following is a list of the top four contending sites (beginning with the highest scoring site):
- Close to Waterfront
- Adjacent to nearby public facilities (ex. recreation and theatre),
- Access to municipal parking,
- Close to downtown,
- Access to public transportation.
The next public consultation process was a second open house held at the Benson Centre on May 19th, 2016. At the second open house our Consultants presented a summary of the community feedback received through the online survey and the first open house, a summary of the proposed programming spaces, a conceptual site plan for each of the top four sites showing a potential building footprint, and conceptual architectural renderings for the Civic Complex site which was deemed to be the best option. Community feedback at the second open house was almost unanimously positive, with the exception of a few residents that voiced concern that the St. Lawrence College site should be given more consideration. As a result of the concerns expressed and to ensure that the College site is provided complete consideration, staff contacted St. Lawrence College Administration prior to finalizing the report, to obtain official commentary from the College regarding their site as a potential location for a new Arts and Culture Centre. The College confirmed that they are open to a potential partnership with the City that would see the Arts and Culture Centre located on their site, but at that time were unable to communicate the College's long term plans for Aultsville Hall.
- Civic Complex
- Cotton Mills
- Si Miller/Curling Club
- St. Lawrence College
Since the +VG Architects presentation of the Final Report to Council on July 11th, 2016, City administration has met with the members of the St. Lawrence College executive to discuss the College's the long term plans for Aultsville Hall (including the theatre). At this meeting, College administration confirmed their openness to a potential partnership with the City for an Arts and Culture Centre to be located on their site, but advised that the College's spacial needs require further study to determine whether or not the Aultsville Hall building can be considered as surplus for the creation of an Arts and Culture Centre.
Considering the College's need to further study their space requirements, and that the site fails to meet some of the identified key factors regarding site selections (ie. proximity to downtown and lack of parking), coupled with the increased operational costs for a stand alone City run facility, administration believes that the Civic Complex site remains the best option.
As part of the feasibility study, the Consultants were required to review and recommend a governance model for the proposed facility. The potential governance model possibilities ranged from a local non-profit governed and operated facility, a range of partnership options to share governance and operating costs, to a municipally owned and operated facility. The determination of which models is best suited for a facility is generally determined based on a combination of the facility operation scale and the range of uses, users, programs and partners. Based on the scale of the proposed facility and the wide range of user groups that are anticipated to access this facility, it was determined that a municipally owned and operated facility, with an advisory board comprised of key cultural sector participants in the City (ie. Arts and Culture Advisory Committee) was the most appropriate governance model.
Our Consultants have provided the following list of recommended next steps to keep the project momentum going towards the ultimate development of the proposed Arts and Culture Centre:
- Formal selection of the preferred option,
- Further design development of the preferred option,
- Prepare a Class D estimate by a professional costing consultant,
- Proposal to Council for Capital Fundraising and Planning,
- Exploration of potential funding and forecasting the project in to the budget,
- Incorporate the Study in the the Formal Business Plan and Capital Budget,
- The Municipality progresses to design and construct the Arts and Culture Centre.