Arena will not be part of DCC if project moves forward

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By Michael Bennett
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

If the revamped Downtown Chatham Centre ever goes forward, an arena will not be a part of the complex.

An update on Imagine Chatham-Kent, the proposed future of the DCC, was prepared by administration for the Aug. 14 council meeting. 

The report states that the “Investor Group,” which purchased the DCC in June 2021, has dropped the idea for a 4,000-seat arena and entertainment complex.

The investor’s group at the time of the purchase consisted of Rob Myers, Pete and Jessica Tsirimbis, Ron Nydam, Don Tetrault and Jim Bullock.

The report, prepared by Bruce McAllister, general manager of Development Services, stated the investors group has indicated with an appraisal price of $3,500,000, they do not see the feasibility of going forward with plans for an entertainment complex.

Instead, the group intends to revitalize the mall portion of the complex, where the arena was proposed.

The report states the group has recently secured long-term leases and will continue to seek more tenants to create a top-tier mall.

The revised proposal still includes the creation of a community hub by moving the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre, Chatham-Kent Public Library and Chatham-Kent Cultural Centre (CK Museum, Kiwanis Theatre and Thames Art Gallery) to the site of the former Sears store in the west end of the mall.

The investor group’s plans to revitalize the mall mean less land will be transferred to the municipality than originally proposed.

The area for an outdoor promenade, proposed to be located between the community hub and entertainment centre in the original plans, will remain in the hands of the investor group as part of their mall plans.

The former Sears store, the 580-space parking garage and 60 surface parking spaces between the garage and the mall’s entrance lane off Wellington St. would be transferred as-is to the municipality.

The updated report also states the municipality will pay for the out-of-pocket costs for the design drawings to date.

There will also be no guaranteed bid for the three existing municipal buildings – Civic Centre, Chatham Library branch and Museum/Thames Art Gallery – which are expected to be made redundant with the redevelopment of the community hub.

The report also offered multiple options on how to proceed with the future housing of municipal operations.

Administration has long recommended major renovations for the 46-year-old Civic Centre, magnified by damage from an early July rainstorm. 

Five options are on the table for council regarding the future of the Civic Centre.

  1. Status quo – address repairs and requirements on an as-need basis.
  2. Renovate the existing Civic Centre – major systems renovations at an estimated cost of $30 million to $35M.
  3. Renovate existing Civic Centre, Library Expansion, Cultural Centre complex. Total estimated cost $38.7M-$45.8M.
  4. Build a new Civic Centre at a new location – estimated cost $70M-$80M.
  5. Purchase a portion of the DCC and relocate – estimated cost of nearly $42.4M, which includes approximately $8.2M for the potential sale of the Civic Centre and Library.

Two public consultation sessions will occur on Sept. 11 and 18, one specific to stakeholder groups (Public Library and Chatham-Kent Arts and Culture Network) and the second for the general public.

More details, dates and locations for these public sessions will be announced in the coming weeks.

Administration will prepare an updated report for council at the Oct. 30 meeting.

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