HRM decides to dig deeper for a new waterfront art gallery

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Three million or 7 million dollars? That is the question.

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia has asked Halifax Council to contribute $7 million to the $140 million megaproject on the Salter Block on Halifax’s waterfront. The province is expecting the lion’s share of $70 million and the federal government is injecting $30 million. The rest will be private donations.

Last month, HRM’s audit and finance committee suggested the board spend $3 million (in five annual installments of $600,000) instead of $7 million.

When the $3 million recommendation landed at a virtual council meeting on Tuesday, it sparked a debate about what HRM could afford and whether the municipality should support a provincial asset.

“I feel like I got a call from my big brother to go out to lunch, but I’m expected to pay,” Deputy Mayor Pam Lovelace (Hammonds Plains St. Margarets) said.

A view of KPMB Architects’ winning design with Omar Gandhi, Jordan Bennett Studio, Elder Lorraine Whitman (NWAC), Public Work and Transsolar for the new Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. – Contributed

She said there were still too many unknowns, like what will happen to the old art gallery building on Hollis Street. Many councilors like Lovelace have said they don’t want to spend municipal funds on provincial projects at this time. The fact that the municipality is spending $4.9 million for emergency modular housing for the homeless, which comes under provincial jurisdiction, has stuck in the throats of several councillors.

But the con. Shawn Cleary (Halifax West Armdale) said Halifax is the main beneficiary of this project. He asked the board to drop the $3 million request and instead vote for the original $7 million contribution.

“People talk about the Central Library, how it’s become Halifax’s living room and I think it could be our playroom,” Cleary said.

Return on investment

That the province will pay the city $2 million to $3 million a year in lieu of property taxes, repaying a $7 million investment over five years, has sparked discussion among councillors.

Com. Sam Austin (Dartmouth Centre) said they shouldn’t worry about tax revenue; whether it’s a project they want to invest in or not.

Com. Cathy Deagle Gammon (Waverley – Fall River – Musquodoboit Valley) said the project is great, but she struggled with the $7 million request, as did several other advisers.

But in the end, the board voted 12 to 5 to support the $7 million contribution. Com. Becky Kent (Dartmouth South Eastern Passage), County. Trish Purdy (Cole Harbor – Westphal – Lake Loon – Cherry Brook), Lovelace, County. Paul Russell (Lower Sackville) and Deagle Gammon voted against.

He will now move on to the fiscal adjustment process, as part of the budgetary discussions that will take place over the next few months. It could still be changed at that time.

Construction of the new art gallery is expected to begin in June with an opening date of 2025.

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