World Trade and Convention Centre could become a cultural hub

The grand ballroom of Halifax’s World Trade and Convention Centre could be converted into a 9,000-square-foot motion picture studio and a 250-seat auditorium for dance, music, theatre and film.

If all goes according to plan, Culture Link Inc., a new organization committed to creating spaces for the arts community in Atlantic Canada, will lease the facility from Armco Capital Inc.

“The idea here is to try to design it so it is as versatile as possible and will allow for use either for existing organizations or future ones,” Marc Almon, Culture Link’s strategic director, said Wednesday.

Almon said there’s an urgent need for this kind of cultural hub in Halifax.

“This is a situation where our arts community has had to make do with spaces that they’ve cobbled together over the years.”

Feasibility study funding

Halifax developer George Armoyan submitted an unsolicited bid for the provincial building last summer. The asking price was $13.5 million.

Armco will take over possession of the building when the new $500-million Nova Centre opens in downtown Halifax. Nova Centre will replace the World Trade and Convention Centre, which was built in 1984.

The province is investing $58,000 toward a feasibility study on renovating the WTCC and turning it into an arts space. Armco Capital is also committing $78,000 for the study.

“The aim for us is to have the feasibility study and business plan complete by the end of this summer and to start actively trying to raise the necessary capital to implement these renovations, these changes and to turn it into a very vibrant hub for the community,” Almon said.

Renos could cost $5 million or more

Culture Link anticipates funding from all three levels of government and private partners for the renovation project, which could cost between $5 million and $7 million.

“The really beautiful thing about this proposal is that we’ll be reusing a space that already was designed to handle large numbers of people,” Almon said.

“And so we actually think this could be a really cost effective way to address a number of cultural infrastructure challenges that Halifax is facing.”

Almon said he would like to see the proposed cultural hub open in fall 2018.

Solidifying 'Halifax as a cultural hub'

Sam Armoyan of Armco said the company’s architects are working with Culture Links and the province to design the space.

“Now with the downtown core becoming just so vibrant — there’s all this new construction, it’s just a very active area — I think this will help solidify Halifax as a cultural hub,” he said.

Regardless of whether the Culture Link plan goes ahead, Armco is also planning on redeveloping the exterior part of the WTCC building closest to Argyle Street for commercial use.