Okotoks Council Explores Shared Partnerships for a Downtown Arts and Learning Campus

At the January 7 meeting, Town Council approved a motion to explore re-development options for the municipal land along Riverside Drive to include a downtown arts and learning campus.

“A shared arts and learning campus would promote economic development, provide access to quality infrastructure that would foster a balanced community, and enhance the downtown core,” said Mayor Bill Robertson.  “A shared space would also provide opportunities for the Town to seek alternate infrastructure funding to meet the needs of arts, culture, recreation, sports, and non-profit groups.”

As the Town has land available within the downtown core, there is the potential for a shared development between the library, Bow Valley College (BVC) and a future performing arts centre.  The library has been actively pursuing expansion opportunities and BVC has been searching for space to expand their current location. As well, the Town has already completed a performing arts feasibility study on the former creamery site in 2017.

Administration will prepare a preliminary conceptual plan to present to Council by February 25, 2019.

A significant consideration in any proposed design would be to follow the environmental guidelines established in the Sheep River Management Plan,” said Robertson. “Protecting the Sheep River, its water quality and eco systems, will be a priority.”

The reality of municipal capital budgets requires the Town to explore non-traditional methods of achieving community objectives. Creating a multi-purpose campus opens opportunities to have conversations with potential partners such as local school boards to identify their long-term needs and interests, discussing leasing options with BVC, and exploring cost-sharing alternatives with the library.

To achieve the full vision, discussions would also include potential partnerships to meet the needs of a performing arts centre.

A financial impact report will be developed, based upon alternate funding and ownership models including traditional ownership, lease-to-own, and leased space. The report will also include potential operating and capital budget impacts, including phasing, and will be presented to Council by May 26, 2019.

“Gaining a greater understanding of the long term fiscal impacts will make us well-prepared to plan for the future,” said Elaine Vincent, chief administrative officer. “This is an opportunity to think big and be future-focused while balancing the immediate needs of multiple stakeholders for the benefit of the community.”