News / Edmonton

Downtown Edmonton Galleria project set for its likely curtain call

The controversial downtown Galleria project appears dead after the province declined to offer any funding for it in last week’s budget.

The planned arts centre was to include several new theatres downtown, near the new Royal Alberta Museum, and the anchor for the proposal was a plan for the University of Alberta to move its Fine Arts faculty to the site, in a long-term lease.

That lease was to be backed by the provincial government, but that same government said definitively Monday there will be no cash.

“There is no funding for the Galleria project, period,” said Craig Loewen, a spokesperson for advanced education minister Donald Scott.

“Given the fiscal circumstances we are in, there is not a lot of money for capital projects.”

The province has $1.1 billion budgeted for post-secondary capital projects over the next five years, but none of that money is allocated to the Galleria project.

The government is reducing the amount schools will get in operating money as well, with a four-per-cent cut over the last two years.

The Galleria, initially pitched as four new theatres at a cost of $1 billion, has since been put into two phases so not all the money would be needed upfront. Godfrey Huybregts, a spokesperson for the project, confirmed that they do need the government’s contribution to put shovels into the ground.

“Phase one is dependent on the U of A signing a lease with us,” Huybregts said. “In terms of getting that funding in place that is something we would secure before we could actually physically start building.”

Huybregts said the government would not be asked for a direct contribution just a guarantee that they would pay for the lease costs on a new building for the university.

He said they also don’t need the money right away, just the commitment.

“The lease payment would not start for two or three years from now,” he said.

Huybregts said the Galleria foundation hasn’t heard directly from the province about their future.

“We have not had that conveyed to us directly either by the university or by the government,” he said.

He said the site hinges on the University of Alberta signing a lease and they don’t have another plan for going ahead with the project.

“It’s not on our radar. As far as we are concerned the university is still fully committed.”

GALLERIA By the numbers

When it was first announced the Galleria project proposed to build:

- A 1,600 seat theatre

- A 650 seat theatre/concert hall

- A 200 seat recital hall

- A 200 seat black box theatre

- A new home for the University’s Fine Arts faculty

- A new commercial office tower

MONEY

  • In addition to proposed contributions from fundraising and the City of Edmonton, the project’s backers proposed to get a mortgage for the project, with the university’s lease as collateral.
  • The city has offered land for the facility and $7.5 million for a pedway on the site, but that money was contingent on provincial funding coming forward.
  • It was the first proposed P4 (philanthropic, public and private partnership) in the city's history. The foundation hoped that in addition to paying for the costs of the mortgage the project would create a fund to support artistic production.

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