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Bright future for old CFAC building

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Bright future for old CFAC building

MacEwan University's current Centre for the Arts and Communications building will be repurposed by the City of Edmonton.

MacEwan University’s new Centre for the Arts and Culture building has been under construction for over a year. With its fall 2017 grand opening looming closer, one wonders what will become of the old Centre for Arts and Communications (CFAC), which has been a member of the MacEwan community for 35 years.

The City of Edmonton is currently in the process of purchasing the building — a transaction between the university and city that has been several years in the making, according to Christopher Lawson, a senior policy advisor for the city.

As part of MacEwan’s strategy to consolidate its campuses into one centralized, downtown location, plans for a new CFAC building began to unfold, leaving the school unsure about what to do with the old building.

In 2012, the school approached the City of Edmonton to determine if the city would be interested in purchasing the building. Lawson explained that the timing of this proposal couldn’t have been better.

“There was a Mayor’s Arts Visioning Strategy, and they identified a strong need to support arts organizations with arts purposes spaces,” he said.

Lawson also noted that the soon-to-be available CFAC building presented the city with “an opportunity to support some of the growing non-profit space needs and, at the same time, support local community vibrancy.”

The city does not plan to make any major alterations to the building’s current layout, Lawson said. Thanks to the variety of rooms offered by in the CFAC building, the city will be able to provide the community with classrooms, meeting and office spaces, and theatre spaces.

Between the amount of community interest and the variety of spaces available in the building, Lawson is optimistic the facility will be able to offer “the best possible fit between a potential user and the way the space is currently designed.” Ideally, this means that a dance organization will have access to rooms with the capacity to act as dance studio, while local theatre companies will have access to stages and performing spaces, and so on.

While there won’t be many changes to the overall layout and design of the building, the city is planning on investing in upkeep as well as updating the facility’s accessibility for people with disabilities.

“Whether it’s major structural repairs, roof replacements or stuff like that, there will certainly be that level of capital investment,” Lawson said.

Aside from these potential renovations, there is a considerable amount of work ahead for the city in finding ideal tenants for the facility. Though there are no confirmed tenants as of yet, Lawson said that non-profit organizations are the key target market for the facility.

“Over the past year, we’ve had a community workgroup comprised of various artists, recreation and community organizations, and non-profit organizations, providing a sounding board to find out what the potential of this facility is,” said Lawson.

With research showing a great interest in this project, the main task ahead of the city is determining which organizations can best utilize the spaces provided by this facility.

The public will have to wait a little while longer to get access to all of these amenities. Though the city takes ownership of the building in fall 2017, Lawson says the actual opening date will depend on any modifications that need to be made to the building.

While there is still work ahead for this facility, it seems as though it will have a bright future as a mixed-use space.

Photo by Madison Kerr.