Halifax council supports development of large-scale arts centre in Middle Sackville

Approval will allow Cobequid Cultural Society’s fundraising efforts to get underway

On Tuesday, a local organization dedicated to fostering the arts in the community received a long awaited green light from city hall.

Halifax regional council voted unanimously in favour of a motion from District 14 Coun. Lisa Blackburn requesting a letter of intent for the sale of land.

The letter will state that the city supports the project and intends to sell the land to the Cobequid Cultural Society for the purposes of building a multifunctional arts complex.

Located off the peninsula in Northwest HRM, the centre is intended to serve more than just the Sackville region. Due to its central location in the province — off Highway 101 at the top of Margeson Drive — Blackburn said that the project “really has provincial draw.”

According to society vice-president Rae Smith, the development will feature “a 750-seat live theatre, a 230-seat dinner theatre, a radio station, a recording studio, a dance studio, a boxing studio, an art gallery, space for MLAs and MPs to have their offices.”

The land is adjacent to a proposed transit park and ride facility. This neighbouring lot will provide ample parking for the arts centre.

Halifax regional council holds its regular meeting on Tuesday.   Abby McLeod

Blackburn said this setup is ideal for those who find it “troublesome” venturing to downtown Halifax to enjoy the arts. Finding parking and navigating steep hills will not be the issue it is at other popular entertainment venues in the province.

Approval of the motion is a beacon of hope for the cultural society. The organization has been trying to move forward with this project for more than five years.

Smith said the project has been before council multiple times at different stages. He says the problem getting started has not been opposition from councillors, but rather the slow-moving planning process.

This letter of intent will allow the cultural society to begin fundraising for the project, a task Smith said has proven difficult without a plot of land secured.

“Nobody’s going to give me a million bucks on a thought, right? You have to have something concrete,” said Smith.

He said the projected cost of the centre is about $22 million. He hopes HRM will sell the land to the group for one dollar.

Smith believes that getting the project into a further planning stage is more pertinent now than ever. Don Flemming, the president of the society, died in October. Smith said that he and other leaders involved understand that Flemming’s passing “shows we need this more than ever.”

Abby McLeod

Abby McLeod

Abby is a reporter completing her Bachelor of Journalism at the University of King's College. Born on P.E.I. but raised in Ontario and educated at the University of Ottawa, she has returned to the East Coast to further her studies.

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