Following five years of planning, the Ancaster Memorial Arts Centre finally began to take shape on Wednesday morning at the official groundbreaking ceremony. Despite the cold and snow, community members gathered in their winter gear against a backdrop of blue construction fencing to hear dignitaries speak words of support before shoveling up the first mounds of dirt among many as construction began.
According to the Centre’s website, it is slated to open in late 2021 or early 2022, and once complete, will include a 450-seat theatre, studio theatre, dance studios and visual arts spaces.
The project was conceived when a group of Ancaster business owners and volunteers realized there was a need for an arts centre in the community. The city identified and purchased Ancaster Memorial School as a potential site, which had been declared surplus by the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board. As part of its commitment to the building, the community who had initially advocated for the project were charged with raising an initial $3 million; they succeeded in relatively short order and momentum grew as all levels of government committed funding. Local architects from Invizij Architects designed the space with the intention of providing affordable space for the community’s artists to collaborate and expand their creativity.
Yesterday’s groundbreaking comes after an uncertain year that could have derailed the project.
The Ontario government pulled a $3 million investment into the Centre in the spring, leaving its future uncertain. However, City Council met in August to review the project and voted unanimously to approve a funding model for the Arts Centre to cover the shortfall and increases in cost that so often happen with major construction projects.
This shortfall will be contributed by Ancaster residents, who will contribute roughly $2.7 million through property taxes (approximately $18 per year) over the next 10 years
The Federal government committed an additional $1.1 million shortly before calling the 2019 election to help fill this gap. This amount is in addition to their initial investment of $1.5 million. The City of Hamilton has also committed to over $6 million in funding through a combination of land sales, gas tax income and reserves, with more funding expected to come through these sources. The local community fundraising goal has increased to $5 million; as of time of publication, they have raised $3.6 million. Paypal is setup on the website for additional donations, with Theatre Ancaster managing the campaign.
The total cost of the centre is currently estimated to be $24 million.