KAMLOOPS – The City of Kamloops is planning to tear down the former Daily News Building downtown, the spot originally picked for a proposed performing arts centre.
While at least one city councillor is against the plan, the spokesperson for group which fought and lost the referendum to build the performing arts centre believes it is the right decision.
City staff will ask council tomorrow, Dec. 15, for its approval to spend a portion of the 2016 budget before it is finalized in order to get a jump on capital projects for the upcoming year. According to a report to be presented, staff ask this every year to ensure both better pricing for projects and to begin construction as soon as weather permits instead of waiting until April.
There are nearly two full pages of capital projects requesting the early funds, including floor replacement in civic buildings, purchase of concession equipment for the Sandman Centre and improvements to Grasslands Boulevard. The demolition of the Daily News building is among these projects and is expected to cost roughly $1 million.
Coun. Denis Walsh says he will not support the early capital expenditures if the demolition of the Daily News building is part of them.
“I think it’s very premature. There is no urgency to tear this building down,” Walsh says.
He believes the building is being torn down to add additional parking to the downtown area, but believes the structure is more valuable standing than paved over. He says the building could be added to or built up rather than completely demolished.
Walsh wants to bring the community into the discussion and find out what they want on the property. He believes whatever decision is made, it will have to go to referendum because of the development cost.
He says the plans are moving forward on the demolition "before this plan could really be flushed out."
The spokesperson for the peforming arts centre YES Campaign says there isn’t a need in the community for leasable retail space, but there is a need for parking downtown.
“I think it’s a good thing for Kamloops," Brenden Shaw says. "It’s the city's land, obviously it’s up to them to pick and choose.”
He says it makes little financial sense to keep a vacant building and if the city can create revenue streams in other ways, like from a parking lot, than they should.
Shaw does not believe the demolition of the Daily News building spells the end of the dream to build a performing arts centre.
“We will advocate for a performing arts centre downtown whether at this location or a different location. Whether it happens now or in 10 or 15 years or when another proposal comes into place,” Shaw says.
The city has not said a parking lot will be built at the Daily News site.
According to a report going to city council, staff does not require the councillors' approval to demolish the building as the funds were budgeted in 2015, adding they are moving forward based on council’s previous direction.
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