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Alberta government antes up $12 million for Edmonton art gallery

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by Suzanne Zwarun last update:Oct 29, 2007

A transfusion of government money has painted a brighter picture for the expansion of The Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton.

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EDMONTON

A transfusion of government money has painted a brighter picture for the expansion of The Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton.

Premier Ed Stelmach has announced that his Conservative government will ante up another $12 million for construction of the new Art Gallery building, an off-site collection storage facility and temporary gallery on Jasper Avenue.

The cost of the futuristic design – a swirl of glass, steel and zinc – has jumped 50 per cent since last summer because of the capital city’s scorching construction climate.

Stelmach’s announcement means the provincial government is funding almost one third – $27 million – of the new gallery’s cost. The cost of the project is now $88 million, up from the original $48 million price tag.

The City of Edmonton, which committed $6 million to the project last year, now has committed $21 million to the gallery. The federal government and private sector are each contributing $10 million. The balance is expected to come from private sector contributors.

“This really says that now it’s time to start building,” says Tony Luppino, the gallery’s executive director. “We’re at a point now where this is really going to happen. We knew it was going to happen all along but I think this gives us the confidence.”

When construction costs started to soar, planners decided they didn’t want to cut corners on the swooping design by Los Angeles architect Randall Stout. Instead, Luppino says, changes in the amount of material and the way it is used have helped pare costs.

The new funding is the first Edmonton project to win money from the province’s Major Community Facilities Program, a two-year, $280 million lottery-funded program to help municipalities, not-for-profit organizations and aboriginal communities plan, upgrade or build major public use facilities that enhance community life.

With the government’s extra $12 million contribution, to be spread over two years, the new gallery is expected to be completed in 2009. The project includes 80,000 square feet of expanded exhibit space and state-of-the-art climate control and mechanical systems to better preserve the collections.

Last spring, the province’s ambitious plans to renovate and expand Edmonton’s Royal Alberta Museum were put on indefinite hold.

The department of Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture announced the province would not be increasing funding for the museum project to keep pace with Edmonton’s rising construction costs and sent the project architects back to the drawing board to come up with a new, more modest design that could be built within the current $200 million budget. The province had originally budgeted $170 million for the renovation.

A 300-stall underground parkade is likely to fall victim to the belt-tightening and that means project architects Donna Clare and Michael Lundholm have to come up with a new plan.

Their design called for a 250,000 square foot, three level addition to the museum, to be built on top an existing surface parking lot. It featured a dramatic glass atrium that was to be cut into the earth like a ravine. The new wing was meant to flow down to the western edge of the museum grounds and the edge of the river valley but the building depended on the existing parking lot being replaced with the underground parkade.

last update:Oct 29, 2007

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