Red Deer’s new Culture Services Centre will get $4.6 million of office renovations so some parks and community services staff can move in.
Mayor Tara Veer was among two council members who voted against this capital budget item on Tuesday, saying the community should have been consulted.
One provision of taking over the former Central Intermediate School from the public school district in 2017 was turning it wholly into a community arts and culture hub, added Veer. She felt school division officials and the public should have a say about a partial change of the building’s use.
General-manager of planning Tara Lodewyk told council that the Culture Services Centre will not lose any of its current arts space.
This means the lower level will continue to house arts studios and workshops, while the main level will retain the Viewpoint Art Gallery, as well as administrative offices for arts and culture. (This first phase of renovations had previously cost $7 million.)
Lodewyk also added that the outdoor plaza will also remain as a community gathering place.
However, all unfinished space on the top floor of the brick building, as well as two floors in the south-side addition will be turned into offices for 120 city parks and community services employees.
City council heard that by the end of 2022, some city offices would be moved from leased premises in the Professional Building into the city-owned Culture Services building, saving taxpayers more than $600,000 in rental costs annually.
The majority of councillors approved this latest renovation on Tuesday, saying it made financial sense to optimize city-owned space for municipal offices.
“We are spending money for a significant savings… It’s a sound business decision,” said Coun. Michael Dawe. He believes the community has already gained a far superior arts and culture space than when it was located on 39th Street.
But the mayor and Coun. Tanya Handley unsuccessfully argued that this wasn’t the time to spend $4.6 million of a flexible provincial grant on this renovation. Veer also noted city hall is already being upgraded and many municipal departments have been downsized. “You can get very favourable lease rates,” considering the amount of empty office space in the downtown, she added.
Other capital budget approvals on Tuesday were nearly $14 million of roadway improvements for 2021 (all covered by a provincial grant), as well as a fire training facility for $4.4 million, a civic yards flood berm for $4.6 million, a Collicutt Centre maintenance upgrade for $2.9 million, annual maintenance to stormwater system for $8 million, and $6.3 million of work to a CP Rail overpass on Hwy 11A as part of the North Land connector project.
Council will discuss proposed upgrades to the G.H. Dawe Community Centre on Wednesday.