A catalyst for growth

As originally seen in The Great Moncton Chamber of Commerce's: Chamber Vision Fall 2016 Magazine 

As the new downtown centre takes shape it brings with it the promise of big name music acts and world class sporting events in 2018. 

But political and business leaders in Greater Moncton believe it will deliver much more than that—the project is already proving to be a catalyst for more development and growth in the entire region.

The idea has been a long time coming. City council first examined it in 2009. A market research study presented to council indicated that such a multiuse building would be a feasible project for the city to undertake, and it would help establish Moncton’s role as an Atlantic Canadian entertainment hub.

Fast forward six years and Moncton City Council, under former Mayor George LeBlanc, signed off on building the new Downtown Centre on the former Highfield Square property. The sod was finally turned on the $104-million project in April. The project’s substantial completion date is set for July 1, 2018, with the official opening in September.

Bird Construction Ltd. is overseeing this mammoth construction project. SMG Canada, which runs other venues including the Rogers K-Rock Centre in Kingston, Ont., will operate and maintain the facility once it is open.

“When fully operational, the Downtown Centre will employ anywhere from 16 to 18 full time staff members, including food and beverage staff,” says Harry Cann, senior vice-president of operations and business development at SMG. During events, the part-time staff compliment will be 100 to 150.

He says that the facility will ramp up its hiring throughout 2017, with full-time staff on board several months before the official opening.

Construction has been running on schedule, which Steve Leger, project director for Bird Construction, says is the result of a close collaborative process between major stakeholders.

“There are always unexpected issues when taking on any construction project,” Leger says. “Successful outcomes are directly related to the positive collaboration between the partners involved in this project, specifically the City of Moncton, Bird Construction, and SMG.”

Given the significance of the project to the construction community in both Moncton and New Brunswick, Leger says Bird focused on partnering with qualified local subcontractors who take pride in their work, knowing it will be a centerpiece of the community for decades to come.

“The events centre will revitalize the downtown in a truly meaningful way,” Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold says. “When it opens, it will be the state of the art centre in the entire country. We're going to be able to attract international calibre artists and entertainment to Moncton, which is fantastic.”

Given the close knit nature of the tri-community region, Riverview and Dieppe are also sure to benefit from the building’s construction.

“I believe the Downtown Centre in Moncton will have a positive impact on the area,” Ann Seamans, Mayor of Riverview says. “With our land off Gunningsville Boulevard zoned for commercial use within walking distance of the centre, we are hoping that it will be attractive to developers.”

Dieppe Mayor Yvon Lapierre notes, “It’s going to mean that citizens have additional entertainment choices, but it will have a spillover effect, which we’re quite happy about, in terms of housing, attracting people, and businesses to the area. That’s going to be beneficial to the whole region.”

This project is an important milestone for the region, says Anne Poirier Basque, executive director of Downtown Moncton Centre-ville Inc., the city’s key business improvement area.

“The Downtown Centre will be more than just an arena with its meeting spaces, retail, and cultural components,” she says.

“This aesthetically pleasing building will become a focal point to our downtown and has already generated additional retail merchants including STILE Fashion Accessories, Elle Mio, and Zachary Samuels.”

She adds the centre will generate more office space, decrease downtown vacancies, and attract an estimated 317,000 additional people each year. “It will be an integral part of downtown life,” she says.

Studies show opportunities to leverage the centre’s construction as a catalyst for increased downtown development, says Kevin Silliker, director of economic development with the City of Moncton. “Already, we’re seeing great momentum with redeveloped buildings and new boutiques popping up on Main Street plus other development projects are in the works,” he says. “Local businesses will also benefit as more pedestrians will frequent the city’s core before and after events.”

Poirier Basque notes that while downtown Moncton is relatively small in size, it comprises only 1.5 per cent of the city’s land area, it represents almost 10 per cent of the total municipal tax base, accounting for more than 14.4 per cent of property tax revenues.

“With the development of the ancillary lands as well as redevelopment of other downtown properties, studies are anticipating a conservative four per cent growth in tax assessment per year,” she says. “This will generate a busy and healthy downtown fostering much-needed services and residential development in the downtown.”

Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce CEO Carol O’Reilly says not to underestimate the signifigance of the centre, during construction or once completed. “Whenever three levels of government agree to spend more than $100 million on a significant piece of infrastructure in your community, it is a positive sign of great things to come,” she says.

Two separate impact analyses showed the project would create more than 700 construction jobs. This will result in $65 million in GDP during the two-year construction phase, which will mean additional federal tax revenue of $10.5 million, and provincial tax revenue exceeding $6 million.

Studies suggested that the city should anticipate between 300,000 and 400,000 patrons at the centre in the first year alone. “Those people will not only be buying tickets to the events, but also spending additional time specifically downtown in our restaurants, bars and hotels,” says O’Reilly. “This will have a positive economic impact on the entire Greater Moncton area. That’s all additional money flowing into our community.”

“Strategic investments in infrastructure help grow our economy,” New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said in a statement. “The construction of Moncton’s Downtown Centre will stimulate the economy and create many jobs in the short term. The centre will also induce more private sector investments in Greater Moncton. Plus, once complete, the centre will attract thousands of patrons which will greatly contribute to the vibrancy of the downtown area.”

The centre is about much more than the business community, however. From the outset of the project, Moncton City Council and municipal staff sought out expertise to ensure that this project would be a solid venture for the community, and for the region as a whole. Community engagement has been of paramount importance.

Last December, the city hosted an Ideas Workshop to solicit a variety of ideas for the events centre project team to consider. Citizens brought forward ideas ranging from integration of renewable energy to offering free public Wi-Fi, and creating green spaces surrounding the building.

With the downtown landscape set to change dramatically over the next two years, O’Reilly believes the best could be yet to come for the city.

“We believe the Downtown Centre will be the catalyst for additional development and traffic in the downtown core,” she says. “The events centre will become a magnet for further growth and that will help the business community of the entire Greater Moncton area.”

A Catalyst For Growth : News & Media : Bird Construction