The plan is now in motion to pave the way for the Entertainment District after city council gave staff the go ahead to proceed with the next steps.
Ian Wood, executive director of Strategic Initiatives, Communications and Citizen Service, said his team has resumed technical meetings with project partners, and they are “going well.”
He said there are a number of steps that need to resume over the next few months, including the finalization of the integrated site plan, design of intersections, engineering work on the storm water management system, reviewing the site preparation contract with BOT Construction, and issuing an request for expressions of interest to select an operator for the event centre.
Approving the resolution to allow staff to work toward those goals allows council to start the site preparation contract, confirm venue operations and the final budget based on final design build, said Wood.
“Our intention is to initiate this work and come back Sept. 14 with more a detailed schedule,” said Wood. “Then we will have a much better picture of what it will look like moving forward.”
Another plea from Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland to change the path to the Kingsway Entertainment District fell on deaf ears.
McCausland said he got involved in municipal politics in 2017 after he visited council chambers to show his support for a downtown location for an event centre. He wanted to protest the path he saw as moving the city backwards - the Kingsway Entertainment District.
Leading up to that day, he said he was “embarrassed” by the fact municipal leaders altered the scoring mechanism to put convenience above all else - to make parking first and city building last.
“I read the report and was frustrated the KED scored first in cost, and the downtown second,” McCausland said. “The numbers were early estimates and there was only a one-per-cent difference between the downtown site and the KED.”
Despite those issues, he said the $360,000 report still recommended the downtown site, but that day, “I saw my city council vote in opposition to the Downtown Master Plan and the draft Official Plan, and without heed to the report’s warnings.”
“This issue has caused a severe rift in our community, and there has been a lot of contradictory information flying around,” he said.
He said the KED is “discriminatory,” because it puts cars before people, and council is putting parking convenience above everything else.
“It’s morally wrong, because not everyone owns a car,” McCausland said. “This is supposed to be our community gathering space, and we have effectively told our residents who don’t own a car that they are not invited. We have chosen to put our community gathering place somewhere it is hardest to get to by those who have the hardest time getting around.”
He said council has “betrayed our plans and are working against so many of the values we claim to espouse, and all in the pursuit of our very own ‘rock cut’ of dreams.”
“There’s still time to change this path, and I urge my colleagues to please reconsider this path.”
Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan said the KED can work, and it can work well.
“All of the agreements will be in place when we come back later this year, and the plan is set in motion now,” he said. “I’m hoping it can come to fruition in 2024, and I do feel we have emerged from all of the challenges, and I wish Mr. Wood and his team well as they move forward. This is going to be an iconic building, and we can all be proud of this city when this gets done.”
In a roll-call vote, councillors McCausland, Mark Signoretti (Ward 1) and Michael Vagnini (Ward 2) were opposed to the resolution.