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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why do we need this now?

Calgary’s population is projected to triple since Arts Commons opened its doors in 1985 (as has Arts Commons’ annual visitors), and diversified significantly, bringing an increased need for access to a diverse range of gathering spaces. Some capacity has been added in Calgary, but the demand is still very pronounced. Additionally, we have maximized all available capacity to achieve revenues from our current venues, turning away approximately 600 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 will also contribute to an economically diverse community, aligning with Calgary and Alberta’s long-term vision, and contribute to the cultural fabric of Calgary, both attracting and retaining talent, building life-long Calgarians. 

Additionally, ACT will have both an immediate (during construction) and a long-term (annually thereafter) economic impact, through job creation and economic activity. The expanded use of the facility will result in a healthy annual operating surplus, providing future sustainability.

What does Phase 1 include?

Phase 1 is the Expansion of Arts Commons, adding approximately 25-35% more seating capacity and additional gathering spaces for the community. The Expansion will be completed first so the resident companies and user groups that use the current facility have somewhere to operate while Phase 2 is underway. The expanded use will generate enough revenue to sustain the existing facility operations.

What does Phase 2 include?

Phase 2 is the Modernization of the existing facility, which is home to six resident companies (Alberta Theatre Projects, Arts Commons Presents, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Downstage, One Yellow Rabbit, and Theatre Calgary), as well as approximately 200 community groups that use the facility annually. This revitalization of the current facility will address the more than $71M in lifecycle issues and elevate the public experience through upgraded amenities and technology.

What happens to Teatro?

Teatro will remain in its heritage building and continue to serve the Calgary community. Phase 1 of ACT – the Expansion – will be located on the north side of the city block, north and east of Teatro.

How much is this project going to cost?

The entire ACT project, including Expansion and Modernization, will cost $450M. 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. 

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.

How will the building sustain itself?

ACT will position Arts Commons and the resident companies for future sustainability. The expanded use will generate enough revenue to sustain the existing facility operations. 

What kind of impact will ACT have on Calgary?

ACT provides the opportunity to lean into today’s unique challenges to invest in a better tomorrow, supporting the creative economy and the growing arts and culture workforce, and contributing to an economically diverse community by jump-starting both short and long-term job creation and economic activity.

ACT will have an immediate and positive impact on our economy during construction, including:

  • $424M contributed to Alberta’s GDP
  • $41.1M in Alberta Government revenues
  • 3,454 jobs created in Alberta
  • $263M in Alberta labour income

Once ACT is complete, the expanded Arts Commons will continue to have a positive economic impact, including: 

  • $59M contributed annually to Alberta’s GDP
  • $5.9M contributed annually to Alberta Government revenues
  • 743 FTE jobs supported in Alberta
  • $37M in annual Alberta labour income
Does this project have the support of the community?

With funding commitments from all three levels of government, 320 letters of support from the business community, and almost 2000 signatures from private citizens, ACT has the backing of the community. ACT also has the full support of the six resident companies (Alberta Theatre Projects, Arts Commons Presents, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Downstage, One Yellow Rabbit, and Theatre Calgary) and civic partners such as Calgary Economic Development, Calgary Downtown Association, Tourism Calgary, and more.

Does this project include the redevelopment and revitalization of Olympic Plaza?

The future development of Olympic Plaza will be undertaken by The City of Calgary, and is not part of the ACT project scope.

“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.”

~ 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