Governments are often criticized for continual commissioning of studies, not only for the cost to taxpayers but also for the lack of progress on given issues.
But in the ongoing case of Nanaimo Centre Stage, proceeding slowly and with caution is likely the best way to decide whether this downtown arts venue is truly the answer to the question of a small performance space for local artists.
Last week city councillors supported a motion by Coun. Bill McKay to study the repairs needed to the Victoria Road theatre. The building is 118 years old and in need of external envelope repairs, but city staff and council worry the cost could increase if further repairs are needed once work begins.
Council was reluctant to spend the money when the repairs first came to light last year but heart-felt presentations by artists who use the building convinced councillors of its value. Moving forward with a viability report means decisions are made not on emotion, but on fact.
Complicating matters is the potential expansion of the Port Theatre to create a brand-new small performance space connected to the world-class theatre. Council is currently considering this an either-or decision but some advocates are asking why the city can’t have both.
The city’s cultural report show a $150-million impact from the arts and culture sector on the Nanaimo economy, and with an estimated 70,000 tourists from the conference centre hotel alone expected annually in the downtown core, the city needs a vibrant arts district to keep visitors and residents alike engaged and entertained.
But like any public project, only so much money is available.
Whether the city invests in Centre Stage, the Port Theatre expansion or both, the decision must be made with clear information on the future potential of each project’s viability and the patience of the Nanaimo taxpayer in mind.