Hines Proguide currently is housed in the old town hall, and the lease does not expire until 2016. However the Region or Hines could end the lease with six months notice.
Co-chairs Kris Snarby and Catherine Bird made the presentation on behalf of the committee that day. Snarby said the goal was to bring some of the focus back to the Main Street of Liverpool. He said over the past few years the focus has shifted to the Bristol Ave. section of town, which is a great development, but the downtown needs something as well.
"A busy Main Street is important for a community as well," he said.
The goal is to create a year round arts centre in the downtown of Liverpool. It would be much more than a gallery however, and more a multi-purpose facility along the lines of Queens Place. The committee has set an ambitious timeline of opening in January of 2013.
The building is seen as the ideal location because of its historic significance as well as being in the centre of Liverpool
"We feel the heart of Liverpool is missing something with the closure of all the businesses," said Snarby.
Snarby says there is a great interest in the space by the community. In talking with various people and organizations, he says they have about $25,000 pledged already. They also presented councillors with letters of support from eight local business and organizations.
"We do feel there is a support base for this in the community," he says.
The vision also includes some renovation to the interior of the building, to make the front doors of the town hall the new entrance to the Astor Theatre.
Inside would also be used for art displays, receptions, smaller performances and a de facto visitor information centre in the off season.
The finances for the centre were presented in brief as well, estimating about $29,000 a year in income from rentals, merchandise and performance. The group would also be looking to continue $1 rental fee and heat and electricity paid for by the Region of Queens. The Sherman Hines Museum has the same agreement under the lease.
Staffing would be handled by one full time person, and sharing resource with the Astor Theatre with student workers.
Councillors were cautious to support the idea in the meeting however. Coun. Darlene Norman said she would rather see the two groups work together on the space instead of evicting one in favour of another.
"The displays in the Proguide space is complimentary to the arts community," she said.
Though she said the project is a great idea, there is already a tenant that has to be considered.
"When you come to council you don't put us in the position of put out a lessee in favour of a new project, or refuse a new project," she said.
Other councillors and the Mayor echoed the statement.
Coun. Randi Dickie however commended the group on their efforts, and said the building could be used to a much greater extent than it is now.
The May 8 meeting was the first time Sherman Hines had heard of the proposal.
Hines has leased the old town hall since the town and municipality amalgamated in 1996. He rents the space for one dollar each year, and the Region pays for exterior repair and property taxes for the site. Hines Proguide looks after water and sewer charges, occupancy taxes, and internal maintenance.
Hines also owns the Rossignol Cultural Centre and surrounding property, though does not pay property taxes.
Hines said there have been other proposals in the past to use the space since he has leased it, including an arts centre. He said that was the goal he has been working toward with both the Sherman Hines Museum and the Rossignol Cultural Centre, and added he is willing to work with the group.
"There were many things proposed today that would better fit at the Rossignol, and we're open to that," he said.
Both the museum and the centre are funded by admissions and the society, and do not receive any funding from the government. Hines says despite the popularity of photography with the digital age, the downturn in tourism means there is not enough funds to keep the sites open year round.
There is a clause in the lease that says if the building is not used for its intended purpose for six months the lease can be ended immediately, however it does not specify the space must be open to the public.
Bird said the presentation was about the idea itself, to see if there was an interest out there.
"We wanted to present an independent proposal to show what we saw as a vision. It was not meant as a slight," she said.