Penticton council keeping performing arts society 'feet on the fire' about plans | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton council keeping performing arts society 'feet on the fire' about plans

The city of Penticton will take a look at what future uses a number of properties it owns on Ellis Street might be used for, including lands that were purchased for a performing arts centre in 2007.

PENTICTON - After years of inaction, city council is pressuring a local arts group to move forward with plans for city-owned property or give up their claims on it.

The city purchased a number of properties on Ellis Street in 2007 with an expressed purpose at the time to build a performing arts centre on the site and left the Penticton and District Performing Arts Facilities Society, which became the South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre in 2012 with the obligation to move a project forward.

Development Services Manager Anthony Haddad told council at yesterday’s council meeting, March 5, the society requested council support in 2017 to explore development of a new arts centre and to create a symposium to better understand the needs and benefits of a performance facility in the city.

The society also asked council to hold the lands until the end of this month so the symposium and other details regarding the facility could be determined and presented to council.

The symposium never happened, however, and this past January the society again expressed desire to move forward with the project, asking for a restrictive covenant on the properties to secure them for the performing arts facility.

The recent purchase of the Greyhound bus depot nearby on Ellis Street prompted staff to make a recommendation on Tuesday to council to prepare an area redevelopment plan for the 100, 200 and 300 blocks of Ellis Street and withhold development of the lands until the plan was completed.

Haddad noted development had changed the area somewhat since the original plans for an art centre were conceived.

Coun. Campbell Watt expressed concerns about moving forward with plans for a performing arts centre, saying when council first looked at the issue in 2007 things were different.

Using nightclubs as an example, he said they were once a thriving business, but no longer existed because "times have changed."

Watt said he supported the project in principle but wanted to see the economics of it before making a decision.

“I’m not convinced it makes sense in this day and age,” he said.

Haddad said the society hasn't consulted the public about plans since 2013.

“The intention of the area redevelopment plan would be to look at the entire three blocks of Ellis Street, look at what the most appropriate uses for the future of the city lands are there. Maybe they are for a performing arts centre, maybe for something else,” Haddad said, adding the public engagement process would tell the city that.

“I support the idea of a performing arts centre downtown, but I’m concerned about the process. And the process - here we are, talking about reserving a piece of land for a specific end use, without going through the process of community engagement. This is city land,” Bloomfield said, adding community engagement is a process “we should probably follow."

Coun. Judy Sentes agreed with Watts and Bloomfield, saying previous councils had made repeated calls to the performing arts society for a financial plan over the years, to no avail.

“It’s a wonderful idea, I support it, but my frustration is there has never been any follow through… That’s why past council put a time frame on it.... This can’t go on indefinitely,” she said.

Mayor John Vassilaki said he believed in thinking big, but didn’t want the society to lose sight of what they have to do.

“They have to gauge the community, see what people are thinking of this multi-million dollar project. The community has to be in favour of it or I won’t vote further. We’ve never received a business plan, we have to keep their feet on the fire,” he said.

Coun. Jake Kimberley said he’s been campaigning for a covenant on the property for a number of years, saying if the city loses it, there is no other place to build a performing arts centre downtown.

Kimberley said the symposium didn’t happen because the society couldn’t get enough money together, but said there should be an opportunity to get sponsorship for the building, something that was pursued, but not heavily enough.

He called support for the centre “vision planning” adding the city had acquired a large amount of land in the downtown core that if not properly planned, could be lost.

“Council knew in 2005 this wasn’t going to happen overnight,” he said.

Council agreed to staff’s recommendation to prepare a redevelopment plan and engage the public prior to any further development off the subject lands.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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