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Arts groups versatile during construction delays

The library’s winter 2013 completion date has passed and the building is still incomplete, leaving some of Jasper’s arts organizations to search for summer homes.

Both the Jasper Artists Guild (JAG) and Habitat for the Arts left their previous locations last fall in order to save money and prepare for their new home in the library and cultural centre. Since then, both organizations have been using spaces around town, like SnowDome Coffee Bar and the Activity Centre, to continue their programming.

For Habitat for the Arts, that will continue until the cultural centre is complete. “We’re ready any day,” said Marianne Garrah, noting that until that day comes, Habitat will continue to be versatile. Her greatest hope, though, is the centre will be open in time for Alberta Culture Days at the end of September. “We mantra every day: Culture Days, Culture Days, Culture Days.”

Unlike Habitat, JAG has decided to open a temporary summer location next to Jasper Rock and Jade. It will be open in time for the May long weekend, said Claude Boocock.

Although that’s a quick fix for the organization’s lack of space, Boocock said now JAG faces the challenge of spreading the word about their new location. That’s going to cost the guild a lot of money in advertising, she said.

The municipality didn’t promise the organization a fixed move-in date, but it is now sounding like it could be a year later than the original tentative date.

“Originally we were told that the project would be complete in December, before Christmas, and then we were told probably March and then we were told April and then after that it sounded like who knows when and it’s stayed at who knows when,” said Boocock.

“JAG was informed that there is no certain date, but it could be as late as December 2013, early 2014.”

The municipality has been fairly silent on what’s causing the delays or when the building should be complete. The last public update to council was in February when Peter Waterworth, chief administrative officer, spoke of legal issues pertaining to mechanical problems in the building.

On Monday, Waterworth said the same issues continue to hold up the project.

“It’s still primarily around all of the mechanical stuff. Nothing’s changed,” he said, noting that he was scheduled to meet with the contractors on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We’re working with both the architects and the builders to secure the best possible outcome for the municipality. But, because it’s a complex negotiation, it’s not inevitable that it will be resolved quickly,” he said. “So we haven’t got a completion date until all of this stuff is worked through.”

Once completed, the building will provide space for L’Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta, as well as JAG, Habitat for the Arts and the library. (The library is currently located beneath the bleachers in the Activity Centre.) It will include a video conference room, a sitting area, a cafe, an office for the mayor and council and a multi-purpose room that will be used for council meetings, among other things.

Construction of the new library and cultural centre began in November 2011. The following July, the project budget was increased for a second time to $8.5 million, a million dollars over the original budget. Those increases were due to unforeseen issues in the existing library, which is being renovated as part of the project. That building, built in 1926 as Jasper’s RCMP detachment, was designated a federal heritage building in 1989.

Because of that distinction, the building must retain its integrity. That means, when restoring or renovating the space, contractors must use as much of the building’s original material as possible, while also keeping the same overall appearance.

Last year’s budget increase was covered by funding from the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) fund.

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