Letters to the editor.

Letter: Performing arts centre or youth centre?

To have or not to have, that is the question?

To have a performing arts centre in the downtown core of the city or a youth centre? Why was that site on the old Nanaimo Hall chosen by past council’s for a Performing Arts Centre? Obviously, it was a great location for a performing arts centre which would eventually bring economic investment into the downtown core. That is why three previous councils campaigned to have Landmark Theatre locate its new movie theatre in the downtown core, it was to encourage people to want to live close to these types of amenities, i.e.: residential development.

The decision this council now has to make; what will bring the most long-term economic benefit into the downtown core, a youth centre, or a performing arts centre? Which of these two proposed developments will bring more visitors, residents and dollars into the city? Pretty easy answer.

Review this present councils approach to downtown. This council introduced tax exemption zones in the downtown core to encourage residential development into the downtown area, which would help the businesses in that area. A very ambitious approach, but sad to say a great tax loss to the city’s annual budget. This council recently invested millions of dollars on improving the streets and underground services in the 100 – 200 blocks of Main Street. The underground service upgrades were also done to accommodate additional demand for those services if increased development were to happen in the downtown area.

The most pertinent questions before council are: If council were to decide to allow a youth centre on this very valuable piece of public property, will it encourage a much needed growth and investment into the downtown and achieve what this council were trying to encourage with a 10-year tax exemptions on new development? Conversely, will a performing arts centre encourage long-term investment into the downtown? It doesn’t take much thinking to answer that question.

Council will also have to determine whether a youth centre would survive as long as a state-of-the-art performing arts centre on that prime piece of real estate? Sad to say I very much doubt it.

Granted the SOPAC campaign has been ongoing for a number of years. Yes, it will need substantial funding for it to become a reality, but most important of all it needs councils support and endorsement to encourage its development. As previous forward thinking councils had previously decided, when they assembled those two properties. It was a planning vision that the past councils endorsed to encourage development along Ellis Street. It is the way councils should decide how valuable property should be held for the greatest return for the future of the city.

The performing arts centre project would have a better chance of happening if this council also got behind the project. Endorse it, send the message out there as other cities have done and who have found not just private investors but other levels of governments. That potential growth will be lost if this council approves a youth centre on that valuable piece of public property. I am not opposed to a youth centre, just don’t give away valuable city property to construct it.

This council was offered the old bingo hall on Eckhardt Avenue, this would be an ideal site for the youth centre. I would encourage council to make your decision on a vision for downtown.

Jake Kimberley


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