Peforming Arts Centre back in mix as Pickering seeks feedback on revised City Centre project

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Published July 14, 2023 at 3:04 pm

Artist concept

Pickering is once again exploring new City Centre concept with an on-again, off-again Performing Arts Centre as a centrepiece and wants to hear what the public has to say about a dream that is now more than six years old.

The City is undertaking a detailed review of the potential features and amenities for a new mixed-use City Centre project, calling the much-revised plan a “bold vision” for a vibrant, connected, and walkable downtown, “where municipal service and program delivery, arts and culture, and residential intensification come together as the heart of the City.”

Members of the public can help shape the final design of the project by completing a survey, with a chance to win a $150 gift card for a local business. Input received from the community will help inform a business case with updated designs, financial models and recommendations on preferred partnership and governance structures for the concept, which will be presented to Council next year.

The City Centre planning started in 2017, with previous designs based on a joint development model which is “no longer feasible,” with Councillor Marice Brenner saying in March the revised vision is an improvement because the City is no longer “making deals with developers” on the property.

Planning staff were working with Pickering Town Centre owners Ontario Pension Board Realty by late 2018 on a deal that would see the project built on lands owned by the City on the south side of The Esplanade and lands owned by the realty company on the east side of the mall.

Enter the pandemic, which delayed work for 18 months or so and when work was re-started the $127 million project had ballooned to the point where Council had to set a ceiling of $207 million. Another 18 months later the project was once again put on hold with preliminary project costs reaching $236 million due to rising construction costs associated with a “COVID and post-COVID environment. “

Financing for the city’s portion of the project was also supposed to funded by hosting revenue from the Pickering Casino Resort but the pandemic delayed that project as well, with the casino finally opening in July of 2021 and expected revenues not streaming in until about a year later.

The project was shelved entirely in February until Council and staff had time to get the finances in order but revived a month later, this time without the Performing Arts Centre as a showpiece. And instead of a land swap, the project is expected to be realized on lands already owned by the City.

“It’s fiscally responsible, Brenner said at the time.

Now the Performing Arts Centre is back on the table, at least as an option for the public to consider.

The new concept is called Facilities on the Park, which will involve relocating the Esplanade South roadway a little further south to allow for the proposed facilities to be constructed adjacent to Esplanade Park, creating scenic views of green space.

The proposed facilities and amenities for City Centre include:

  • new central library
  • new community centre with dedicated seniors & youth spaces
  • new performing arts centre
  • expanded City Hall administration space
  • new public square
  • new connected green spaces to create a ‘campus’ concept – one on the west side of Glenanna Road to offer year-round activities and one south of the current Central Library which will offer gathering opportunities and possible event space
  • residential development – to be located above the library and community centre

Until August 31 residents and other interested parties can review the concept and provide input on the proposed features and amenities.

Consultant KPMG, informed by input from the community, will then develop a business case with updated designs, financial model, and recommendations on preferred partnership and governance structures for the City Centre concept.

Council will be presented with the recommendation for preferred concept and take the next steps to approval, including finding the right development partner.

You can view a project timeline here. To complete the survey, visit CITY CENTRE SURVEY.

 

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