Council approves “Band-Aid” solution for the PG Playhouse
Last week, city council approved a half-million dollar “band-aid” solution to repair and reopen the Prince George Playhouse.
On December 4, part of the stucco cladding on the west side of the performance hall tower fell and landed on the lower roof level and on the ground nearby during a storm. A preliminary inspection revealed significant rot at the site where the stucco failed, said Acting City Manager of Civic Operations Blake McIntosh.
The city hired a contractor to investigate the condition of the building, including creating an exploratory opening in the cladding and using a probe to detect humidity.
“The water exceeds the existing exterior,” McIntosh said. “The coating system is not working as expected.”
The original building dates back to the 1970s, but in 1996 the city funded a major renovation of the facility, McIntosh wrote in a report to city council. During this renovation, the building was finished with a face-sealed exterior insulation finish system that was in common use in the 1990s.
“Since that time, it has been discovered that this coating system has problems with water penetration and that moisture cannot escape,” McIntosh wrote in his report to the board. “This problem inevitably leads to damage and degradation of the cladding system and the wall system. This issue has occurred in a number of jurisdictions that have used this product. This is one of the many buildings in the City’s portfolio that has been constructed with this type of coating. “
On June 14, city council approved an expense of $ 230,000 to reside on the west side of the tower. The funding includes $ 90,000 to cover the costs the city has spent to date, to build wooden palisades over the damaged area, heat it and conduct an appraisal of the building.
In addition, council approved $ 271,500 to upgrade the theater’s rigging system to improve safety before the building reopens.
Without the repairs, the building would not be safe to operate, McIntosh said.
“It’s not secure with hoarding, and it’s not very tight,” he said.
In the long term, however, the building will have to undergo major structural repairs, new siding and roofing, and replacement of the 25 year old HVAC system. McIntosh estimated the cost of repairing the building at $ 5.17 million, with an additional $ 1.5 million needed for new parking.
At present, only 65 of the old 135-parking space facilities remain, following the sale and development of the neighboring land, McIntosh wrote.
Com. Kyle Sampson said the city needs to fix the Playhouse, but a longer-term solution is needed.
“I support the Band-Aid solution,” Sampson said. “I’m providing a service that no other facility (in town) really does. Without it, we will have nothing in the short term.
Sampson said the issue of a new performance hall in the city had been postponed for years, but now “we are on borrowed time.”
“Now the work is really starting,” he said.
Several community members wrote in support of the repairs, including Miracle Theater director Ted Price and producer Anne Laughlin. Several members of the Prince George Theater Workshop also added their voices of support.
While some people have said the Playhouse is a great facility, it was the performance – not the building – that was great, Sampson said.
“It’s not really a big facility. It’s actually a pretty run down facility,” he said. “But it’s better than having no facilities.”
Com. Cori Ramsay said city council was taking “a little risk” by spending $ 500,000 on a facility that could be damaged again by the next big storm.
“I admit it’s just a band-aid solution. (But) I’m such an advocate for the arts,” Ramsay said.
But the city needs to seriously consider its options and priorities, before spending nearly $ 7 million more on the facility to fix it in the longer term, she said.
Acting Deputy City Manager Ian Wells said the city is leading a renewed consultation on its new downtown arts strategy. The proposed plan is expected to be submitted to city council in the fall once the post-COVID consultation is complete and the city has a clearer idea of what funding will be available, Wells said.
Part of that plan will include recommendations for a concert hall / performance hall project in the city center, he added.
The city’s operating lease with FortisBC is due to expire on Oct. 31 and the city could receive a lump sum payment of $ 25 million at the end of the 17-year agreement.
Com. Brian Skakun said some of that money could potentially be used for the cost of a new performance hall.
“WE MUST MOVE FORWARD, JUST NOT HERE”
Com. Teri McConnachie was the only voice on council against the “Band-Aid” option.
She said repairing the Playhouse won’t solve the parking problems, and to make it truly a usable facility, an additional $ 1.5 million will be needed to create a new parking lot.
“It’s a $ 2 million fix to make it work properly,” McConnachie said. “I think it will take over $ 500,000 for everything to be viable. We have to move forward, but not here.”