Myer Horowitz renovation price: $17.5M. Its real value? Questionable

On December 1st, Students’ Council will vote on irrespective of whether to use the Sustainability and Cash Fund to renovate the Myer Horowitz Theatre, a challenge estimated to price tag $17.5 million.

The renovation has arguably been the most important objective of the Students’ Union (SU) above the previous four yrs and, as these types of, the vote guarantees to be a pivotal moment in the growth of our campus local community. 

Nevertheless, following four several years and multiple updates about the task, there are even now lots of excellent concerns about whether the high priced renovation is truly to the gain of pupils. 

The underlying rationale for the Myer Horowitz renovation has largely remained the very same since the task was initial proposed in June 2016. Given that the theatre has not been renovated considering that 1983, quite a few of the furnishings and technological know-how in the theatre has grow to be outdated. By renovating and expanding the place, the SU hopes to make the Hyer Horowitz much more attractive for student groups and external clients to lease. 

Finally, advocates of the renovation argue this will realize two aims. 1st, the renovation proposal promises to produce a campus community hub — a location exactly where students from throughout unique schools can come alongside one another to hold events for a low expense. The 2nd aim is to diversify the SU’s revenue streams and reduce their reliance on student expenses, as some consider a newly renovated theatre will draw in far more 3rd parties to hire the Myer Horowitz. 

In general, the goals themselves are not undesirable. The pandemic has highlighted the relevance of our campus group and that students need to get benefit from our service fees. Nevertheless, when we appear closer at the details, it is questionable if renovating the Myer Horowitz truly achieves these targets. 

Very first, I stay unconvinced that student groups will be inclined to use a recently-renovated theatre for activities. Currently, the Myer Horowitz is generally utilised by exterior teams somewhat than by learners. In actuality, scholar gatherings only comprised 36 for each cent of the theatre’s event times in 2019. I see handful of reasons to believe that that a renovation will transform this.

To be good, advocates of the task do acknowledge this is an situation. In order to test and appeal to extra pupil groups, the SU hopes to present reduced costs for student functions and will explore new sorts of partnerships for university student groups, this kind of as a “revenue-sharing” product. The facts of this product are even now to be formulated.

Continue to, I wrestle to see the strategy drawing pupils to the theatre. It’s unclear why university student groups — who are frequently shorter on funds — would shell out dollars to lease the theatre, even at a reduce expense, when there are different venues on campus that are more affordable or outright free. Even if the theatre is a considerably nicer area, we’re university learners: if we can get one thing for no cost, which is the route we’ll ordinarily get.

Further than this, a renovation does not always promise an increase in earnings. More recent seats, far better technologies, and a bigger foyer will make the theatre definitely greater. At the finish of the day, nevertheless, the Myer Horowitz still has to contend with several other superior-close event areas in Edmonton, together with University’s have Lister Centre and Timms Centre on campus. If the SU is major about pursuing this renovation, there need to be trustworthy estimates around how much financial gain a renovated Myer Horowitz could assume to increase. 

This is specifically important when we look at the Myer Horowitz’s recent revenue. According to the hottest audited financial statements on the SU’s web site, the theatre made a profits of roughly half a million pounds in 2018. Nevertheless, factoring in operating expenses, the Myer Horowitz produced a net profit of just in excess of $64,000 that yr. Since the renovation prices $17.5 million, it’s critical to at the very least estimate how much income we could count on from a new theatre.

Provided these things, the Students’ Council should strongly reconsider whether or not this expensive renovation will attain its supposed plans. I have an understanding of the enchantment of the project — I’d love to have a house where college students can come alongside one another as a local community that also raises income. Nonetheless, except additional facts are introduced, we simply cannot say with sensible certainty that a renovated Myer Horowitz theatre is this best house. 

Instead, here’s what we can say with certainty about the job. To start with, the renovation’s selling price tag has constantly long gone up due to the fact it was to start with proposed in 2016. To begin with, the undertaking was believed to value $11 million and $9.5 million was meant to be elevated through choice funding sources, these kinds of as grants or donations. As these types of, the SU would’ve only financed $1.5 million of the venture — however not inexpensive but not an outrageous quantity.

4 several years later on and the most recent proposal bears small economic resemblance to the authentic. According to a presentation on November 23, 2020 the overall challenge now prices $17.5 million and the SU only estimates to attain $1.3 to $4.7 million in alternative funding. This leaves the SU with a invoice of all over $12.9 to $16.2 million — previously mentioned 8 moments the sum they predicted to pay out in 2016.

The only other certainty is that the SU has struggled to get learners on board with the job. This is greatest witnessed by means of the Student Situations Initiative (SEI). The SEI would’ve charged students a charge of $8.50 a semester in purchase to finance the renovation, together with a couple other grants for student groups. On the other hand, the campus neighborhood rejected the SEI in a referendum, proficiently killing the proposal. The SU then attempted to achieve funding for the approach once more by way of the Scholar Areas Levy, a similar payment. Yet, it was decisively defeated at Students’ Council in advance of it could go to referendum, as councillors felt that they did not have adequate time to appraise the proposal. 

The SU at last succeeded in attaining new income sources past yr, when the Sustainability and Money Fund (SCF) handed a scholar referdrum. Even so, the SCF was not a referendum about renovating the Myer Horowitz. The SCF was about generating a fund for jobs which deal with environmental and economic sustainability challenges, such as local weather alter and deferred upkeep. While the Myer Horowitz renovation may possibly arguably slide into this group, no a person must oversight the SCF referendum as students pledging their support for the renovation. 

Hunting at the evolution of the task, SU associates need to very seriously check with themselves no matter if the Myer Horowitz renovation will serve the wants of college students. 

Learners hope to get value from their fees. If Students’ Council decides to fund the high priced Myer Horowitz theatre renovation task, they far better be confident students see worth in the job and that the venture will unquestionably provide on its promised outcomes. Given the issues left unanswered over the earlier four decades, I’m not sure any pupil agent can be specific it does.

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