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Library tenants request rental ‘grace period’


Claude Boocock, vice chair of the Jasper Artists Guild, tours the new library and cultural centre, which will house the guild’s gallery. | N. Veerman photo

After years of delays, two future tenants of the long overdue library and cultural centre have requested a break on the rent for up to a year after the building opens its doors.

Jasper Habitat for the Arts and the Jasper Artists Guild submitted letters to council last month, explaining how the past three years of construction delays have negatively affected their organizations, making it near impossible for them to begin paying rental fees Oct. 2, when the building is expected to be completed.

In their letter on behalf of Habitat for the Arts, Marianne Garrah and David Baker asked for the first 12 months rent free, explaining that with the anticipation of moving into the brand new cultural centre in 2013, they closed down their established location in the old courthouse in 2012 to focus on creating partnerships and acquiring grants and sponsorships to help with the development of the new space.

But, the building didn’t open in 2013, as was expected, nor did it open in 2014 and now it is scheduled to open Oct. 2, nearly three years after its original completion date.

The construction delays have “resulted in a loss of momentum, weakening of many of those partnerships/sponsorships and even declining of grants,” states the letter.

Garrah and Baker go on to explain that Habitat’s funding is at a near standstill, as the non-profit has no lease or permanent address.

Claude Boocock, vice chair of the Jasper Artists Guild, wrote a similar letter, requesting eight months rent free, beginning Oct. 1 and carrying through to May 31, 2016.

Over the course of the last three years, JAG has relocated to six different locations as it has tried to stay afloat during the cultural centre’s constant delays. It is currently back in the Old Fire Hall, the location it left in 2012, in anticipation of the new building.

“As you can imagine,” wrote Boocock, “the merry-go-round of locations was confusing to our faithful public, and near to impossible to determine for one-time viewers. The minimal traffic resulted in very poor sales.”

With that in mind, Boocock requested a “grace period”.

If council is to approve the requests, there is the potential for the municipality to lose more than $30,000 in revenue.

The municipality hasn’t yet drafted leases for the arts organizations, but based on numbers that were drafted a couple of years ago, Habitat for the Arts is likely to be paying about $1560 per month, while the Jasper Artists Guild will pay about $1475.

Those numbers are based on each organization’s square footage within the building.

Habitat for the Arts will have 1,910 square feet. That space will include a pottery studio, audio/visual room, recording studio and theatre space, among other things.

The Jasper Artists Guild will have 1,800 square feet, which will be used as a gallery.

The municipality multiplied each organization’s square footage by 82 cents, coming up with their monthly rental rates, excluding GST, utilities and custodial costs.

Council will vote on whether to provide the organization’s with a break on their rental payments Sept. 15.

Administration presented council with its recommendation Sept. 1, suggesting that council defer the collection of their rent with interest, until an alternate decision is made regarding a lease fee exemption or a repayment plan. That would provide administration with time to complete lease agreements with each of the organizations, before council makes a final decision.

Mark Fercho, chief administrative officer, explained to council Sept. 1 that the decision it makes will have to take into account what is best not only for the organizations, but also for the taxpayer, as the loss of revenue would have to be made up elsewhere.

Nicole Veerman

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