City could inherit Citadel building's maintenance and renewal costs

City could inherit Citadel building's maintenance and renewal costs

· The Pulse

The Citadel Theatre's lease, signed with the city in 1974, is up for renewal as of September, and a proposed new agreement could see the costs to maintain and renew the venerable arts institution's building transferred to the City of Edmonton.

The Citadel built and operates the theatre located at 9828 101A Avenue NW, and has leased the land from the city since 1974. The first phase of the building opened in 1976, the second in 1984, and the building was completed to its current form in 1989. The original lease said the building would be transferred to the city at the end of the 50-year term. "Well, who would have thunk it, but 50 years went by," the Citadel's interim executive director Alan Nursall told Taproot.

City administration has drafted a new 10-year lease that could see the City of Edmonton take on maintenance and renewal responsibility for the theatre. The city estimates that would cost it about $1.36 million annually, plus up to $375,000 to support current maintenance work.

A report accompanying the proposed lease, scheduled to be examined at a city council executive committee meeting on May 3, said the Citadel told the city it did not have the financial resources or expertise to continue maintaining the building. Nursall said that isn't accurate. "It's not that we can't do it — we have been doing it, we've got a 50-year track record. It's a question of making it simple for both parties."

Maintaining the building requires time from Citadel staff, Nursall said, and the proposed transfer would allow the theatre to focus on creating art.

Administration estimates the facility needs $56.2 million invested into renewal over the initial term of the proposed lease and $131 million over the next 25 years. The city noted in the report that there is already a $4.8 billion gap in capital renewal investment for city assets and that taking on the Citadel would increase this gap. If council approves the lease, the city said it will determine how pressing renewal work is for the Citadel building and possibly move other projects down the list to prioritize the Citadel.

Nursall said the building's heating, air conditioning, and ventilation will need attention over the next 30 years, along with regular repairs to the roof. He said the estimates outlined in the report are "worst-case scenario" numbers. "We would never estimate that high," he said.

The Citadel would provide at least $100,000 per year toward the renewal costs. The theatre would achieve this by adding a $2 fee per ticket. The Citadel would cover its own janitorial, insurance, security, utilities, and property tax costs under the proposed lease. The Citadel would continue to sublease portions of the theatre to commercial tenants, like the restaurant PlayWright, which is set to open in the old Normand's location. The subtenant's rent would contribute to the Citadel's expenses. Any improvements to the theatre's auditoriums, like new curtains and seats, would be the Citadel's responsibility.

In 2022-2023, the Citadel reported $14.5 million in revenues and $15.2 million in expenses. The Citadel spent an average of $1.5 million annually on the facility over the last five years, amounting to roughly 10% to 15% of the organization's total expenses.

Nursall calls the proposed lease a win-win situation, as more room in the budget means the theatre's artists can create more art. "The city needs a vibrant art district, and this is a small opportunity for the city to keep investing in that space," he said. "Downtown would be much worse off without it."

Photo: The Citadel's original 50-year lease, signed with the city in 1974, is up for renewal in September. (Stephanie Swensrude)