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About ACT

ACT is a statement about Calgary’s commitment to visionary transformation and a case study for how arts organizations around the world can become increasingly self-sustaining, while becoming key contributors to the economic growth and long-term prosperity of their communities. As Calgary emerges as one of the world’s great cosmopolitan centres, Arts Commons will be right there along with it... supporting, engaging, and uniting all Calgarians at every step of the way.

The Opportunity

Since Arts Commons opened in 1985, Calgary’s population has nearly tripled and the amount of resident companies that call our complex home has doubled. As importantly, we welcome approximately 200 local groups into our building every year, providing the necessary spaces and support to build community. With the ongoing growth of our community, we have maximized all available capacity to achieve revenues from our current venues, turning away hundreds of revenue-generating events every year. If we are to continue to increase earned revenues and be financially sustainable over the long term, we must add more revenue generating spaces. ACT is positioned to meet this challenge.

With over 10 years of research, development, and community-engagement behind it, the Arts Commons Transformation (ACT) project includes two phases to achieve a new, vibrant campus in the heart of Calgary:

  • Phase 1 is the Expansion, which will provide the much-needed increase in the number of venues and spaces (adding an additional 25%-35% in seating capacity) necessary to meet growing market demand and community aspirations.
  • Phase 2 is the Modernization of the existing 560,000 square foot facility, elevating the public’s experience through upgraded amenities and technology, while also addressing over $71M in lifecycle work. 

ACT will also help make Calgary Canada’s most livable city by enhancing our citizen’s quality of life and providing all Calgarians with increased access to arts and culture experiences. ACT will renew Arts Commons’ world-class commitment to a new Calgary with a focus on local impact. Calgary will become a place not only to make a living, but also to make a life.

Support for ACT

With funding commitments from all three levels of government, as well as 320 letters of support from the business community and almost 2000 signatures from private citizens, ACT has the backing of the community. In October 2010, the Government of Alberta provided a $1M grant in support of ACT. In September, 2011, Calgary City Council approved $25M in Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding. In December 2018, the Provincial government announced the extension of the River’s District Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) for 20 years, providing Arts Commons with $135M in future funding. In March 2019, City Council approved the $135M from CRL and in September 2019, Council voted to endorse ACT as one of the City’s four priority capital projects. In April, 2021, The City of Calgary announced the allocation of $80M towards the Arts Commons Transformation (ACT) project, as part of its Greater Downtown Plan. 

 The entire ACT project is projected to cost $450M. With $240M (53%) of funding accounted for, the fundraising threshold has been surpassed to allow the project to break ground. A public fundraising campaign for the remainder of the project costs is currently underway and will launch in parallel with the ACT design process.

Project Timeline

October 2020

CMLC, Arts Commons, and The City of Calgary enter a tri-party agreement and form the ACT Oversight Committee. CMLC will act as Development Manager, overseeing the project and design delivery.

December 2020

Procurement process begins.

February 2021

Colliers (Calgary) is selected as Project Manager and Fisher Dachs Associates (New York) is selected as Theatre Planning Consultant.

March 2021

Venue Consulting, in collaboration with A.W. Hooker are selected as Cost Consultants.

April 2021

Stakeholder and Public Engagement Strategy gets underway, including roundtable discussions, stakeholder interviews, and a public survey (closed May 31, 2021).

May 2021

Placemaker Speaker Series: “Designing Cultural Spaces in a Post-Pandemic World”, takes place on Zoom on May 19th from noon to 2:00 pm and will feature industry leaders and authorities in theatre design and arts facility development. The event will include a panel discussion with a Q&A session to follow. 

June 2021

Data compilation and synthesis of stakeholder and public engagement outcomes, provided to project team in advance of Prime Design Consultant selection and concept design commencing.

February 9, 2022

Full Prime Design Project Team announced. See the Media Release here.

Q1 & Q2, 2022

Concept Design Phase

Q3 & Q4, 2022

Schematic Design Phase

Q4 2022 - Q2 2023

Design Development Phase

Q2 2023 - Q3 2024

Construction Drawings and Permitting Phase

Q4 2024

Groundbreaking

"Arts Commons is the beating heart of Calgary's downtown."

~ The Honourable Doug Black, Canadian Senator

"Arts Commons will be a key contributor to the social, economic, cultural, and intellectual life and well-being of Calgarians and visitors alike, and an important building-block for the revitalization of the downtown core suffering."

~ Former Mayor, Naheed Nenshi

"Bringing back Alberta’s economic strength and attracting investment will require a complete community. That includes infrastructure as well as quality of life elements, like professional sports teams and of course a strong and vibrant arts and culture scene. These are all important pieces of making people and companies want to move to and stay in Calgary. The Arts Commons Transformation will enhance our ability to succeed while providing much needed capacity for citizens to enjoy performance arts."

~ Ric McIver, Minister of Transportation

"The quality of a community’s cultural infrastructure has a direct impact on quality of life and therefore, on the competitiveness ​of communities in attracting people ​and investment."

~ Canadian Council of Chief Executives

"CMLC is proud to be a partner on this project that is adding to the cultural identity of Calgary. We are confident the team will provide a design solution that improves the resiliency, accessibility and capacity of Arts Commons and that its experiences will be designed to meet the needs of the community for years to come."

~ Kate Thompson, President and CEO, CMLC