Community hall creation

Progress may not be visible on the new community hall for Fort St. James and an additional grant of $250,000 will certainly help.

Progress may not be visible on the new community hall for Fort St. James, however it is happening, and an additional grant of $250,000 will certainly help.

The facility will hopefully open before the end of next year.

Planning has been going on for months, but slowed a bit over the summer, and preliminary plans have been made, with an architect working on drawings and more exact cost estimates.

The rough cost estimates so far are a further $1 million, above the purchase of the building, based on initial plans.

The committee working on developing the plans had been trying to determine what would be possible within the existing structure of the building (previously the Victory Christian Centre and Birch Theatre).

While there was enough money in place, this also included a long-term loan for $300,000 over 20 years by the District.

The additional funds from Northern Development Initiative Trust could also help to provide for contingencies.

“That gives us a nice extra cushion,” said Kevin Crook, chief administrative officer for the District of Fort St. James, who is spearheading the committee.

With so many user groups hoping to utilize the facility and different fire code constraints, it was initially unclear whether the cinema would be able to be kept in place and there was also uncertainty around a racquetball and squash court.

However, the theatre will be kept and moveable walls are in the plans in order to meet fire code regulations and to make the spaces more flexible for different users.

The one shortfall so far however, is the lack of funding for the digital projector the theatre will need to be functional. There will also the addition of some seating to the theatre, so it is more usable for arts council performances and other productions, and it is expected it will seat around 130 people, if plans move forward as they hope.

On the other side of the moveable wall will be a large hall with a capacity of around 250 people.

There will be meeting rooms, possibly as many as three, depending on the space the bathrooms end up requiring. The kitchen was a major discussion point for awhile, but the committee is working with Northern Health to determine what is required to provide an adequate kitchen for the size and capacity of the building when it is done.

Look for further information on the plans as the committee continues into the detailed design stage.

The committee is hoping to be able to put out a request for proposals for construction contracts later this year.

The facility will be a great addition to the economic potential of the town, according to Emily Colombo, economic development officer for the District.

“It gives us the opportunity to host conferences, forums, and large-scale events we’ve been previously limited from hosting,” she said.