News / Halifax

Halifax World Trade and Convention Centre could become cultural hub

Culture Link wants to use the downtown Halifax space to connect the region's film, theatre, dance and music industries.

Marc Almon and his business partner Rob Power (not pictured) have big ideas for the WTCC space.

Patrick Fulgencio for Metro

Marc Almon and his business partner Rob Power (not pictured) have big ideas for the WTCC space.

A plan is in the works to turn the World Trade and Convention Centre (WTCC) into a cultural hub to service the region’s creative industries.

The Nova Centre is expected to open at the end of this year, which will make the WTCC building redundant.

On Wednesday, Marc Almon and his business partner Rob Power announced plans for the creation of what they’re calling Culture Link.

“We realized here was an opportunity to take a space that’s not easily converted to other purposes and to use it to help address a number of issues when it comes to our cultural communities such as theatre and dance and music as well as film,” said Marc Almon, strategic director of the new organization.

“We have these really incredible communities that are thriving despite the fact that we’re working with very modest resources, and we’ve had to cobble together these substandard spaces over the years for our purposes. I think the time has come for us to try to build a facility that I think would allow us to create better work.”

Almon said in part, they want to convert the facility’s grand ballroom into two components.

The first would be a 9,000 square foot multi-purpose studio for film, television, videogame, animation and virtual reality projects. The second is a theatre with at least 250 seats and a 30 by 40 foot stage to support dance and music presentations as well as theatre and cinema screenings.

Other plans for the complex include the development of dance studios, rehearsal space and a digital media and creative industries incubator. The incubator would provide lower-cost office space, resources and mentorship opportunities.

“I really hope the incubator is an opportunity to support young creators, young filmmakers, people from diverse backgrounds,” Almon said.

“We really need to do a better job of nurturing the next generation of storytellers in our community.”

The province is investing $58,000 into a feasibility study, while Armco Capital Inc. (the developer taking possession of the WTCC) has committed $78,000.

Almon expects the study will be finished by July, with fundraising for the project set to begin afterwards.

“The fact that we have a private partner on board that is excited about this project and is willing to put some money into this I think speaks volumes,” he said.

Culture Link would lease the facility from Armco Capital.

"I think one of the big problems is in the arts community we have not had an organization that has a dedicated executive bringing these resources together and having this vision to have creative spaces," Almon said.

“We need an organization that can be a partner with the cultural community, with private companies, and with government to identify these opportunities."

Film fund infusion

On Thursday, the provincial government announced an increase of $6.9 million into the Nova Scotia Film and Television Production Incentive Fund budget.

Marc Almon, strategic director of Culture Link and former Screen Nova Scotia chairman, said his personal view is the cash infusion is welcome, provided the government continues regularly investing in the fund.

“We have to keep in mind the way it was handled (cancelling the film tax credit) in 2015 was really disastrous. It was very bad for our industry,” he said.

“But there was a genuine effort I think to avert total collapse of the industry, total disaster… This is the third time they’ve topped up the fund and to me that’s a good thing.”

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