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Thunder Bay Art Gallery applies for more federal funding (2 Photos)

Ottawa has received requests for money for two other local projects from the same program.

THUNDER BAY — The Thunder Bay Art Gallery has asked the federal government for additional funding for the gallery it plans to build on the waterfront.

The government has already committed $15 million to the project from two funding sources.

Gallery director Sharon Godwin confirmed the new application after an inquiry from TBNewswatch.

She said the TBAG is hoping for money from Infrastructure Canada's Green and Inclusive Community Building Fund.

According to Godwin, the gallery sees the fund as an opportunity "to potentially improve the new building and create a net carbon neutral facility."

The federal program supports the construction of energy-efficient publicly accessible community buildings that serve high-needs, underserved communities. 

Individual projects are eligible for up to $25 million, but Godwin declined to reveal how much the gallery is asking for.

She said "should funding be granted...improvements will be made to what is already a highly efficient facility design."

In 2018, Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Patty Hajdu announced federal funding of $11.5 million for the new art gallery under the Cultural Spaces Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

In 2019, Hajdu announced a further $3.5 million from FedNor.

The $33 million project has also received $5 million from the City of Thunder Bay, as well as support from the province's Northern Ontario Heritage Fund and community donors.

Located on vacant land between the marina and the Alexander Henry museum ship, the building will include more than twice the space of the current gallery on the Confederation College campus, a café, event hall, outdoor art displays, and an extension of the waterfront trail.

In 2018, it was hoped that construction of the two-storey, 38,000-square-foot facility would begin by the following spring.

By early 2020, the tentative target date for turning sod had been pushed back to the end of the year, but construction has not started as yet.

In a statement to TBNewswatch, Godwin said COVID-19-related lockdowns have created numerous challenges for the project, but work continues and "these challenges are being mitigated strategically and carefully by the gallery."

She said the TBAG is "weighing changes and impacts of both the environmental process and impacts of COVID-19 including forecasted increases in the cost of building materials."

It's likely that the effort to sort out how to deal with contaminated soil on the site has also contributed to escalating costs. 

The construction site contains pollutants from decades of industrial operations.

It took three years to come up with a mitigation plan that was acceptable to the Ontario environment ministry.

The approved plan largely involves capping parts of the site.

Godwin said the mitigation measures are currently being incorporated into the building and landscape design by the architects.

She said once the tendering and construction schedules are confirmed, the gallery will provide an update to the community in the late fall.

Godwin said the TBAG board remains fully committed to the project and is working strategically to bring it "to its final conclusion."

However, this may indicate there will be no shovels in the ground before 2022.

The fall is also when the federal government is expected to announce which proponents will receive money from the Green and Inclusive Communities Building Fund.

Applications were submitted to the same fund from at least two other Thunder Bay-area projects – the City of Thunder Bay's covered turf facility and a proposed long-term-care home on Fort William First Nation.

Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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