MONCTON – Heritage Development Ltd. will work with the provincial government to turn the old Moncton High School into office spaces and a community arts centre, it was announced Thursday.
The New Brunswick government struck an agreement-in-principle to sell the building to Heritage Development Ltd. last year for a price of $1-million. That deal is now closed.
Heritage Development will own a portion of the property and renovate around 100,000 square feet into office space. The province will retain ownership of the 47,000-square-foot theatre and invest $4-million to renovate it.
“Once the work is finished at the end of 2019, [the theatre] will be transferred back to the developer. The developer will maintain that the same way as the rest of the building,” said Chris Evers, VP of Administration of Heritage Development.
Evers said the developer initially planned to take and renovate the entire building but came across some concerns during its due diligence process. Still, it plans to spend up to $9-million to fix the exterior of the building.
“It is a big building, it is an old building, it’s built prior to there being a Canadian building code, there were some concerns about structural issues, masonry issues, there was a lot of details to go through to finalize those numbers,” he said.
Minister Rogers said the developer has also agreed to provide long-term, low-cost leases to arts and cultural organizations. With the theatre, that would allow the building to be repurposed into a community arts centre.
“One of the very important requirements going forward is to have the not-for-profit theatre here,” Evers said. “It’s great to have government support with that to ensure the not-for-profit tenant or tenants will work well with the commercial venue.”
Evers said Heritage Development has not signed any tenants for the commercial space yet. He also couldn’t comment on what type of non-profit organizations would be “ideal.”
“We have a couple of leads, that’s the type of thing we’ll continue to work on. Our priority is to find a tenant and at the same time, preserve the building,” he said.
Evers said the facade and interior will remain largely the same but will need fixes for safety reasons. When it does get tenants, Heritage Development would have to make renovations inside to fit tenants’ requirements, he added.
“But the first stage is to get the building to a point where it’s occupiable. So we have to deal with life safety issues, we have to deal with the building envelope, and through that process, we’ll continue our efforts to identify the not-for-profit [tenant],” he said.
“Now that the announcement has been made, we can start putting tenders out, put contractors to work.”
Music NB Executive Director Jean Surette said he’s happy to see an investment in the cultural sector regarded as an economic driver.
“The fact that [the building] will have a cultural mandate is a good thing,” he said. “Artists are always looking for places to produce what they need to produce, rehearse, practice spaces – there’s not a lot of those.”