It's been two years since the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia first announced its itchy feet, a plan to move to an old parking lot on Salter Street and create what it calls the Halifax Waterfront Arts District. The vision is part art gallery, part community hub, and even though NSCAD announced it won't be part of the plan, after all, it has all the vibes of a cultural touchstone in the making.
The gallery chose the most ambitious design—"the only one that doesn’t look like a shopping mall,” as a Coast reader aptly put it—for its harbourside home, picking the creation by KPMB Architects, Omar Gandhi Architect, Jordan Bennett Studio, Elder Lorraine Whitman, Public Work and Transsolar. And the project comes with an ambitious price tag, slated to cost upwards of $130 million. The province has already committed up to $80 million, with the federal government pledging $30 million.
Today, at a meeting of Halifax Regional Municipality's audit and finance standing committee, the gallery's comparatively modest request for funding from the city was discussed. While the gallery was asking for $7 million, a staff report recommends that number be slashed to $3 million that gets paid out in $600,000 increments, each fiscal year until 2026-27.
"The soul of the city and the heart of the city comes from a lot of different areas, including art. And I think the art gallery deserves credit for what they’ve done, putting it forward," said mayor Mike Savage at the committee meeting, before adding he knows it's still a big ask.
Councillor/committe member Trish Purdy expressed concern about the expense being part of this year's budget when building isn't set to start until 2024. But she adds that she does see "a huge impact to HRM" from the project, as estimates state the numbers of tourists drawn to the new gallery will grow significantly from the AGNS's current location at 1723 Hollis Street.
The proposal now has to be discussed and approved by council in this year's budget debates. "I don’t exactly know what the numbers should be on this," Savage added, "but that’s something council will have to make a determination of as we go through the budget process."