If you care about creation of a downtown arts-culture facility in one of Kitchener’s few city-owned heritage buildings, I would suggest you speak up at Monday’s June 6, council meeting.
The session starts at 7 p.m. and you can register to speak by contacting the clerk’s department at 519.741.2200 ext.7591.
I support maintaining city ownership of the heritage Legion building at 48 Ontario Street and using it as an arts centre. However, I’m concerned that council’s second-guessing and political waffling could help undermine or scuttle a project that would bring increased vitality to the downtown.
In past months, councillors heard appeals for affordable space from our arts community before directing staff to come up with options for future use of the empty Legion building. But, at last Monday’s planning committee meeting, the requested staff report and public survey requested by council generated efforts to muddy and lessen the impact of the following recommended options:
– Sell the heritage building to a developer and reserve the money for an arts centre at another location.
– Retain city ownership and lease the building as an arts-culture centre.
– Sell the Legion on condition a developer assemble surrounding properties and then lease back the building to use as a heritage arts-culture hub.
First dilution of the staff report came from Coun. Kelly Galloway-Sealock who successfully moved an amendment that insisted the first staff option be treated as a separate item by those surveyed. Respondents would also be asked, if the building is sold, whether cash proceeds should go toward an art centre in an alternate facility.
Couns. Sarah Marsh, Bil Ioannidis and John Gazzola joined me in opposing that amendment while Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, Paul Singh, Dave Schnider and Yvonne Fernandes and Galloway-Seacock supported the move.
Councillors then voted in favour of the altered staff report with the exception of Coun. Scott Davey who opposed all options and Coun. Zyg Janecki who was away.
Despite that vote, I’m concerned that, hidden behind the appearance of interest in preserving the Legion and creating an arts hub, there are some councillors who care little about downtown heritage and others who would sell the building to a developer as part of a land assembly near the LRT route on Duke Street.