Nanaimo council reluctant to discuss Centre Stage upgrades

NANAIMO – Firm says $800,000 is needed to fix 116-year-old building being used for performing arts.

Nanaimo city council will discuss spending more than $800,000 to renovate Nanaimo Centre Stage in its 2013-17 budget deliberations, but early indications suggest that elected officials have little appetite to spend that much money on the 116-year-old building.

The city purchased the aging building at 25 Victoria Cres. in 2008 for $460,000 for the purpose of providing a small performing arts theatre in the downtown area. Another $150,000 was budgeted for renovations.

The purchase at the time was fostered by the board of directors of the Downtown Nanaimo Partnership (now called the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association), and strongly opposed by then-mayor Gary Korpan, who argued purchasing the building for its proposed use was not an appropriate use of taxpayer money.

The Centre of the Arts Society currently operates Nanaimo Centre Stage under a licence of use agreement with the city, and the facility has seen increased usage over the past few years.

During a review of city assets performed earlier this year, an engineering firm  recommended that extensive work be done to the building, including $450,000 to replace stucco, $100,000 to reroof sloped areas with a metal roof, and $10,000 to replace all of the building’s windows, among other work.

Brick work, including replacing the chimney, was also recommended.

On Monday, city council agreed to discuss the expenditure during budget deliberations, but the issue received a cool reception.

“It’s a heck of a lot of money to fix this place up,” said Coun. Ted Greves. “We should knock the darn thing down and start over.”

Coun. Bill McKay said he felt the discussion shouldn’t even make it to budget deliberations.

“This represents a one-per cent increase alone in taxation,” he said. “ I cannot and will not support this.”

Council, however, voted 7-1 to discuss it at budget time. McKay voted against it even getting that far.

Coun. Fred Pattje, chairman of the cultural committee, said the issue deserves to go through the proper process.

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