A consultant report commissioned by the city and the Nelson Civic Theatre Society has concluded that Nelson would not be able to support a conference centre.
The report, written by PKF Consulting, a tourism and hospitality firm in Toronto, says that the centre would not attract enough business because of Nelson’s remote location, airport inaccessibility, limited hotel room numbers, and the lack of large well-known branded hotel chains.
The report offered insights to the society, which approached city council Monday night with an ambitious proposal for the first phase of re-developing the Civic Centre into a more modern facility that responds to current and future community interests, and an invitation for the city to share costs.
The proposal, presented by theatre society members Graeme Leadbeater, Dianna Ducs, Eleanor Stacey, and Marilyn Mint, is based on the concept of the “intelligent community” which the group said has four components: human creative skills, innovative institutions, broadband networks, and virtual collaborative space. Their presentation to council is attached below.
They said Nelson already has the first two and will soon have the third, and that the Civic Theatre would provide the collaborative space through this new proposal.
“Not only does this vision align completely with the Civic Theatre’s mission, but it is the perfect fit for Nelson,” said Stacey in her presentation.
She said the new proposal suspends the out-dated objections of the PKF report — limitations of distance, facility size, accommodation numbers — “and focuses on the idea that conversations and exchanges, even conferences, can and will be done through virtual connections of groups of people, (and) we begin to envision a new future for meetings that is faster, more economical, and more inclusive than more traditional styles offer.”
Stacey cited the upcoming Civic Theatre film screening of The Singing Revolution as an example. It’s a film about the power of music to affect political change in Estonia, being shown here as fundraiser for the local Pura Vida Foundation that works with at risk girls in Peru, with two songs from the stage by Corazón before the film.
“Imagine an opportunity for our local choir to rehearse and perform in real time with youth choirs in Peru and Estonia,” she said, “building bridges with communities in other parts of the world, through crystal clear surround sound and broadcast live on line further enhancing fundraising efforts. It is pretty exciting.”
She used the recent youth film festival at the Civic Theatre as another example, invoking images of youth across the province sharing their films and interacting with each other about them.
“In its short history so far,” Stacey said, “the Civic Theatre has already established a reputation as a community collaborator and a supporter of other non-profits in our community and the idea of being able amplify these efforts through creative supports at an innovative facility with broadband access, lends itself to a very exciting future.”
The conference facilities would be part of the current plan for the expansion of the Civic Theatre which also includes adding two more screens and constructing a galleria or concourse on the outside of the building along Vernon St. that would connect all the other components.
The Civic Theatre proposal divides this work into two phases with proposed funding for each phase divided between the city and the theatre society as follows:
Phase 1, City of Nelson: Construct community concourse and new access to Vernon St, plus mechanical and electrical upgrades.
Phase 1, Civic Theatre: Construct Theatre 2, and two linkages to the concourse.
Phase 1 costs: Civic Theatre, $1.3 million; City of Nelson, $1.6 million
Phase 2, City of Nelson: construct community concourse upper level, renovate multi-purpose area, further mechanical and electrical upgrading.
Phase 2, Civic Theatre: Construct theatre 3 and renovate lobby and office areas.
Phase 2 costs: Civic Theatre, $1.3 million, City of Nelson: $1.6 million.
The proposal states that the city’s part of the funding could be divided equally between the Canada 150 Fund, “non-federal funding,” and city funds. The theatre society’s portion would come from non-federal funding, grants, corporate donations, and its own reserves.
The project hinges on the possibility of the city obtaining money from the Canada 150 fund, a new infrastructure fund set up by the federal government to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017. The deadline for applications is June 17 of this year. City Council will consider the Civic Theatre’s proposal, and whether to apply to the Canada 150 fund, at a meeting on June 11.
The Civic Theatre group told council they intend to follow some of the recommendations of the PFK report which include targeting overnight regional meetings and events, engaging in collaborative marketing to promote Nelson as a meeting destination regionally, encouraging partnership opportunities, and working toward airport improvements in Castlegar.
(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the Phase 2 costs.)