YARMOUTH - Mitch Bonnar, president of Th'YARC Playhouse and Arts Centre, has confirmed the purchase of the former Arcadia Elementary School from the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth for a new theatre and arts centre.
Bonnar did not disclose the price but says it was a reasonable offer.
“It wasn’t a giveaway,” he said. “It fits the bill very well. The building’s in good shape.”
Meanwhile, the Town of Yarmouth has been working towards a new arts centre downtown. The Collins Street parking lot between First and Second streets was approved at the Yarmouth town council meeting on Sept. 21 as the site selected for a proposed new arts centre.
Th’YARC, a long-established organization that has provided a wide variety of entertainment over the years, said early on in the debate of where to locate an arts facility that it would prefer to stay on Parade Street and build a new facility there. However, its primary concern was governance.
Bonnar’s concern, he said, was that the town would operate it, design it, build it and decide where it goes. Without the town on board for the Parade Street location, it was next to impossible to obtain funding for the new facility there.
With a new home in the municipality, Bonnar says the organization can now move ahead and apply for funding.
The design for the new arts centre is almost done, he says, because the Arcadia school is almost the same size (24,000 square feet) as the footage included in a plan prepared earlier for Th’YARC’s new facility.
“The classrooms will become all the areas that we already decide to build,” he said. The rooms will be used for storing goods, props and equipment for arts groups.
There will be close to 8,000-9,000 square feet of theatre, including a sloped-floor theatre and a flat-floor theatre.
Before work begins in earnest, funding will have to be obtained. When the new facility is ready for use, the old one on Parade Street will be sold.
“We could use the money,” said Bonnar.
The facility planned for Parade Street a decade ago cost an estimated $10.6 million, says Bonnar, adding that it was revised recently to around $11 million.
“This building should cost significantly less because it’s half built. I’m thinking in the area of around $6 million,” he said.
“It’s not something we’re looking forward to doing but after 10 years we have to move on. We’re not able to come to an agreement with the town. We’ve told them for 10 years we’re not opposed to moving and they keep saying it’s not true, well obviously it is true.”
John Cunningham, deputy warden for the Municipality of Yarmouth, expressed relief at the sale of the property.
“That building would have cost the municipality roughly $40,000 to $50,000 annually just to keep the heat on, insured and the area plowed just for fire purposes,” he said.
He added that the last RFP for demolition came in as an estimated $515,000.
“That cost would have been downloaded to the municipality if we couldn’t get rid of it over the next year or so,” he said.
Cunningham said earlier this year the municipality put out an RFP to see what could be done with the school property and Th’YARC was the only proposal received.
“At no time ever was this a concern of where the new (arts centre) was going to go. I want to make that very clear,” he said.
Cunningham said council would like to see another playground on the property and that the preservation of the nature walk - Tkipok Trail - will be a topic of discussion in future.
More on Arcadia school
To read an earlier story on the Arcadia school, click here