On Monday, council voted to sell Fire Hall no. 1. Council also voted to not extend an agreement to repurpose the building to house the Cranbrook and District Arts Council.
Mayor Lee Pratt gave the news at the end of the Monday, April 27 city council meeting. Council came to the decision during the in-camera portion of the meeting prior to the public agenda.
Pratt noted the decision was not an easy one.
“It was a tough decision made, and we feel it was the right decision made for the majority of the citizens of Cranbrook,” Pratt said.
The Memorandum of Understanding that the city previously had with the Cranbrook and District Arts Council will also not be extended. The agreement was around the potential repurposing of Fire Hall no. 1 into a permanent home for the arts council.
“That was the decision of council following the meeting this evening,” Pratt said. “Several significant concerns about the overall viability without a significant investment from the city were raised, along with the level of services within the city being duplicated, especially with organizations and facilities that already get funding and support from the city as well as with services delivered by local private sector businesses.”
Pratt said council also believes the scale of the project is beyond the arts council’s ability to deliver.
Pratt added that council also voted Monday night to have staff talk to a realtor and put the building up for sale.
“There will be a number of contingencies or rules pertaining to the sale and the listing, which staff will be discussing with the city’s realtor,” he said.
Additionally, a press release issued by Chris Zettel, Corporate Communication Officer for the city said the decision is a chance to give the historic building new life.
“The opportunity is now there for the currently empty fire hall to be purchased, renovated and given a new and useful purpose that will help continue to revitalize the downtown,” the release read. “The new owners will also be able to take advantage of the city‚Äôs downtown Revitalization Tax Exemption bylaw designed to encourage and stimulate development and improvement in the downtown helping enhance the economy and add to the beautification of the area.
“Those who take advantage of the bylaw can receive a property tax exemption of between 80 to 100 percent of the total improvement cost for a term of five years.”
The release made the destination that council is not selling the city‚Äôs heritage: “Regardless of its future use, the city‚Äôs Heritage Bylaw is in place to help maintain the heritage character of buildings designated under the bylaw, such as the fire hall ‚Äì whether the ownership is public or private. Council will review all offers being put forward for the old fire hall by potential buyers including all future use plans. Council is very keen to see what opportunities may exist for the building.”
On the subject of the Memorandum of Understanding, the release stated that the review of the structural assessment completed by an independent engineer showed significant structural issues with the building.
“Similarly, in terms of the proposed business plan, there are several significant deficiencies with the draft business plan that makes Council suspect the viability of the plan,” the release said. “For example, the plan lacks a proper basic feasibility assessment of the market. While there are a number of statements throughout the document claiming a high demand for the services proposed by CDAC, there is no actual supporting information justifying the statements. The plan also lacks a proper analysis of the competition. In fact, many of the proposed activities and services of the plan duplicate what is already offered by existing facilities supported by the city.
“In essence, the plan proposes to go into direct competition with facilities already funded by the City including the Key City Theatre, the Studio Stage Door, the Royal Alexandra Hall at the Cranbrook History Centre and the Manual Training Centre along with private sector businesses and other service organizations.”
The release said that council is prepared to work with the CDAC to help them find an affordable permanent home.
“Although a new MOU will not be entered into at this time, Council will continue to support CDAC through its grants to organizations program and have committed $20,000 for operations of the CDAC in 2015,” it said.