Moncton’s Downtown Events Centre On Target For September Opening

The Avenir Centre on Main Street, Moncton. Image: Inda Intiar/Huddle

MONCTON – The construction of the $110-million Downtown Events Centre in Moncton is nearing completion as the city targets a September opening.

Gregg Houser, the city’s Deputy Treasurer and Controller, told the City’s Committee of the Whole meeting Monday that the building is expected to be completed as scheduled.

“[The City will] take ownership in June or early July, with opening still scheduled for September. The operators SMG will operate that facility,” he said.

“I think Jack [MacDonald, General Manager for Engineering and Environmental Services] mentioned it’s over and above 80 per cent completion. So it’s on time.”

Houser also presented the financial report on the centre, which shows $600,000 less spending from the contingency fund than initially estimated.

“Based on the estimate initially that council approved in March of 2016, it approved based on a list of expectations of what we have to do and that’s $7.2 [million in contingency budget]. We managed savings on some costs and not having to do some things that we thought,” he said. “Looks like to date, we’re $600,000 less than that in the contingency amount we spent, so we’d be spending $6.6 [million].”

The cost for the centre, including an outdoor plaza, ancillary land sales and fees, was initially estimated at nearly $103.5 million. The City Council later approved additional costs, bringing the total up to around $109.4 million. The centre still needs $4.2 million of that, which the finance department has suggested drawing from capital reserves. Moncton’s general capital reserves currently stand at nearly $24.2 million.

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In addition, the centre is expected to cost the city a net of $500,200 in operational expenses a year. The total funding needed is closer to $3.5 million to run the facility. But they’ll be mostly paid for by various taxes and a contribution from the private sector group Downtown Moncton Centre-ville Inc. for the next 15 years.

“There are two sides – the facility side, which in accordance with the contract we have with the operator, we have a guaranteed annual payment. Basically, on the other side, the $500,000 relates to things outside of the facility – the plaza area, the maintenance of that, replacement of that, programming for this, the staff to deal with that and there’ll be events that’s gonna cost money over and above what we might spend now. So that’s where the $500,000 estimate comes from,” Houser explained.

However, Houser added that the anticipation for the centre is already putting millions of dollars of projects in the pipeline.

“Part of the argument for the downtown centre is we’d get basically, I think the estimate is, $83 million in assessment [of the value of surrounding projects] plus the ancillary land where the new [Hyatt] hotel is gonna be, so there is an anticipation on that side,” he said.

“From Kevin’s [Silliker, director of economic development] part, we’ve already had $45 million of building permits issued related to those areas. So that’s anticipation that throws additional assessment. And one of the key premises to build the downtown centre is to help grow the downtown area.”

Moncton set a record for the second time in 2017, with the annual value of construction permits reaching $243.4 million. Out of that, Silliker said at his presentation on Monday, more than $45 million was in the downtown area.

St. James Gate’s event room was cited as an example of a project already built ahead of the downtown centre’s opening. Other projects planned for the area is Corey Craig’s Hyatt Place, which will be a hotel with a restaurant and a retail space, and Five Five Queen, a boutique hotel and condominiums with a pub on the first floor.

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