Council denies funding for LPACF purchase of Trinity Lutheran Church

The Lacombe Performing Arts Centre Foundation won’t be purchasing the Trinity Lutheran Church following a Monday night council decision. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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The Lacombe Performing Arts Centre Foundation (LPACF) may not have their home for the arts, after all.

Despite committing in principle to support the LPACF purchase of the church in late 2018, and commit to a dollar figure once grant application success was known, city council unanimously voted instead to help the foundation develop alternate proposals to establish a performing arts centre in Lacombe.

While council also approved an annual operating grant of $1,000 per month to LPACF starting June 1, 2019, it was little solace for the group who now believes their hopes for creating a dedicated space for the arts in the community are now dashed.

“We’re disappointed, obviously,” said LPACF President Grant Harder. “I think what council fails to recognize is that there is a lack of opportunity in town for a facility of this type – we’ve looked at all the different spaces. We’ve looked at the different churches. We’ve looked at warehouses where we could convert it into a performing arts facility and they do not exist.

“That’s why we’re looking so seriously at the (Trinity Lutheran Church).”

Concerns from council stemmed from doubt around the building’s condition, worth and viability moving forward, as well as how much parking could be near the facility.

The purchase price of the building is set at $850,000, which Coun. Reuben Konnik said he didn’t believe anyone would pay except for the LPACF.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in the room who doesn’t want to support the arts community, but this one is fraught with concerns,” he said.

“The issue I have is not the initial purchase…my issue is five years from now when the ask becomes $2-3 million for a renovation, a new build.  At that point, you’d be better off building a new building from scratch than buying this one.”

Coun. Cora Hoekstra agreed.

“I have been part of conversations where there’s great concern about the building and the cost,” she said. “I think this is a great performance space in the meantime, but I like the idea where…city administration works with this group to develop alternative proposals. I think maybe we need to look around the city for something that might work better.

“I think there’s a spirit on this council that these aren’t hollow words, that we will support you to find something different.”

The LPACF was ready to contribute $105,000 plus a deposit amount they were already working on raising to start, while another $150,000 may have been contributed through the Community Builder Partnership grant with a matching capital support grant from the county. That would leave a $445,000 mortgage – which would need an operating grant of at least $27,858 for the next 25 years.

With the CFEP grant application denied, and the possibility their ICIP grant could also be denied, the city’s financial support could cause property tax increased from 0.19 per cent to 0.31 per cent.

Still, the LPACF had already moved forward on upgrades to the building following council’s agreement of support in principle. They rebuilt the stage, painted the entire sanctuary, worked on upgrading the sound and lighting systems, and added an art wall, among other improvements.

Now that the LPACF won’t be able to purchase the building, it will go back on the market.

“We put ourselves in first position to purchase it and now we’ve lost that opportunity and the church will put it back on the open market to be sold because they will sell it,” Harder said. “Depending on the future purchaser, that could presumably put us out on the street.”

He expressed doubt that other church groups would be amenable to having performing arts groups use their facility as the Lutheran church has.

As for the next steps for the performing arts group, Harder said they didn’t know, but they will continue to operate and run shows as long as the Trinity Lutheran Church – and whoever may purchase the building – will have them. However, it may affect their ability to schedule performances and other programs moving forward, especially with their lease expiring in August.

“It puts us in a bind,” he said. “We don’t know come August if we’ll have a place to hang our hat or not.”

Council also issued a release Tuesday afternoon, focusing on their efforts to work with the Lacombe Performing Arts Centre Foundation to develop other proposals.

“I understand that the foundation is disappointed that council felt the property in question fell short of the community’s long-term needs, but I am pleased that all members of council acknowledge and appreciate the value of arts in Lacombe,” said Mayor Grant Creasey. “We are committed to supporting the foundation to fulfill their desire for a permanent home.”

Director of Community Services Deborah Juch said city staff will assist LPACF with researching a project scope that will suit the performing arts centre’s “need for the next 25 to 40 years, as identified in the feasibility study.”

Council, according to the release, has considered a number of proposals to establish an performing arts centre over the past six years, including the February 2012 Needs Assessment and Market Analysis for a Community Arts Centre.

The city currently supports art through annual funding to groups with performing events in temporary venues. In 2018, $20,000 in contributions were distributed to nine different arts groups and individuals.

Council put the Lacombe Athletic Park Association (LAPA) in a similar situation at a previous council meeting. The group had requested funding aid for their track and field house expansion projects, but council only agreed in principle to commit funds, pending the success of grant applications.

Timeline

  • In 2013, then-Coun. Grant Creasey moves to accept the C4 Initiative presentation as information.
  • In 2014, then-Coun. Grant Harder is appointed to the C4 committee, and council agrees to consider the C4 funding request to a maximum of $25,000 as part of 2015 budget deliberations.
  • In 2015, then-Coun. Wayne Armishaw asks for the C4 initiative to be brought forward as part of the 10 Year Capital Plan review.
  • In 2016, the performing arts foundation asked council to include them in their 10 Year Capital Plan for a fraction of the $27,000,000 projected cost of the proposed Cranna Community Cultural Centre, otherwise known as the C4 initiative. The project was excluded from the plan in favour of West Area Development servicing and other infrastructure upgrades.
    The group said they didn’t see the C4 project being built anytime in the near future, and began searching for a home to tide them over for the next decade or more.
  • 12, 2018 – A rezoning application to change the Trinity Lutheran Church from Residential Detached District (R1) to Community Services District (CS) to allow for theatrical performances is given first reading.
  • March 8, 2018 – LPACF speaks with the Lacombe Globe about forming an agreement with the Trinity Lutheran Church to use the venue for the performing arts. The agreement pends the success of their application for rezoning .
    The group says that rezoning and securing the building would give them not only a place to host small indoor concerts and performances – rather than forcing them out of Lacombe – but a provide permanent rehearsal space for community bands and the Lacombe Art Guild. The building, they say, also provides them with acoustics other facilities like the LMC can’t offer.
  • March 12, 2018 – Lacombe city council approves the rezoning application. It’s clarified then that the partnership between the LPACF and the Trinity Lutheran Church came about by way of the church opening itself up to host non-profits, and that they’ve been working on the possibility of using the space for the arts since August.
    The performing arts foundation says there will be minor renovations to do to bring the building up to standard.
  • 10, 2018 – Council accepts the LPACF proposal as information and directs administration to assist in the development of a formal business plan.
  • 28, 2018 – The Singing, Swinging Christmas celebration officially becomes the first performance following the performing arts centre’s upgrades to the Trinity Lutheran Church, including the complete repaint of the sanctuary, renovations to the bathroom and a rebuilt stage.
    The foundation is now looking to retrofit the church into a theatre rather than pursue the C4 initiative, which they believe is too costly.
  • 30 2018 – Homegrown Theatre performs the radio play of “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Lacombe Performing Arts Centre – the first theatre performance after the LPACF rebuilt the stage.
  • In December 2018, the LPACF believes it’s another step closer to owning the church building, which was put up for sale before they moved in. They say another party was interested in the building, which prompted them asking city council for support.
    City council agrees in principle to support the purchase with financial support to be determined following decisions on grant applications. They also agree to guarantee the mortgage and in the meantime provide disbursements of up to $50,000 annually – subject to a building inspection.
    Council raises concerns they may be taking financial risks by either buying or aiding in the purchase of the building, due to its age and condition.
    Mayor Creasey says the ask was a little one-sided, unlike their collaborations with LAPA, who were able to contribute funds early on in development of their facilities, but the group says that as a non-profit, they hold no collateral nor tangible assets.
  • On Jan. 14, 2019, Lacombe city council awards Cognidyn Engineering and Design the Pre-Sale Building Inspection’ for LPACF to the tune of $6,750 plus GST.
  • 21, 2019 – Ryon Holmedal kicks off the first – and perhaps last – Alair Winter Series at the Lacombe Performing Arts Centre. Randi Boulton also performed as part of the series. The installation of an art wall showcasing local artists’ work is now complete.
  • 28-March 1 – C.J. Berube and 12 other musicians put on “Mystery Train” benefit concert at the Lacombe Memorial Centre to raise funds for the Lacombe Performing Arts Centre.

abarrett@postmedia.com

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