Forward, But Not Full Speed on Arts Centre

A draft image of the proposed "Celebration Centre" if it were to be built on the site of the current Centennial Hall.

Time is ticking on a pitch to build a brand new performing arts centre in London.

The $164-million dollar project would include an 1,800 seat concert hall and attached condominiums. The “Celebration Centre” would open in time for the 150th Anniversary of Canada in 2017.

On Monday, the Investment and Economic Prosperity Committee voted to ask a consulting firm for more information before committing to the centre, which has placed the project into a time crunch.

The city hired Novita to create a formal business plan for the development, and now the committee is requesting independent studies on a market analysis, facility program and design criteria and a site analysis be prepared for council. Those studies could take as long as eight weeks to prepare. The last day for this council to make a decision on major funding requests is September 12. The last full council meeting before then is scheduled for September 2.  

Scott Ritchie, a representative of the joint Grand Theatre and Orchestra London task force that brought the pitch for the centre forward, says he was hoping for at least conditional support from the committee rather than a commitment to giving the project “serious consideration”.

The committee vote also allows proponents to approach the provincial and federal government for financial support.

Councillor Paul Hubert pitched an amendment that would have seen the language in the attached request change from “serious consideration” to “moving forward with the development”, but he couldn’t find a seconder.

Hubert says he is hoping Novita can bring the new studies back to council as soon as possible so councillors can have a final vote on the project before election time limits their powers.

The next city council could continue with the process of possibly approving the centre, but Mayor Joni Baechler says it was this council’s project, so the best case scenario is that this council approve it.