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Arts Commons Transformation (ACT) Project News

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) and its partners, The City of Calgary and Arts Commons, were thrilled to announce the Olympic Plaza Transformation—a new city building initiative to renew an important but aging downtown cultural space, amplify the potential of the Arts Commons Transformation (ACT) and foster continued revitalization of the downtown core.

Click here to learn more.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

CMLC has announced EllisDon as the Construction Manager for the Arts Commons Transformation.

EllisDon was selected through a rigorous, RFP-based recruitment process that CMLC conducted this past summer. A leader in large-scale construction for more than 70 years, EllisDon has a vast and impressive portfolio of projects across Canada and beyond—from the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa to the Expo 2020 Canada Pavilion in Dubai to the recently completed Massey Hall in Toronto. EllisDon will work closely alongside ACT’s prime design team to bring the project to life.

For more information on the selection of EllisDon as Construction Manager, please visit the CMLC website.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Arts Commons issued a Request for Proposal for Capital Campaign Communications, Marketing and Design Consultancy. The chosen firm will be responsible for the development and implementation of the ACT Capital Campaign marketing and communications strategy, action plan, creative writing, and design concept development and execution.

View the RFP

Wednesday, February 9, 2021
Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), together with partners Arts Commons and The City of Calgary, is excited to announce the team that will lead the design for the expansion and renewal of Arts Commons, one of Canada’s largest and most vibrant arts centres, through the Arts Commons Transformation (ACT) project. Read the full media release.

Design team for Calgary’s new Arts Commons development takes aim at ‘barriers to inclusivity’ - The Globe and Mail, Feb. 10, 2022

Monday, April 26, 2021
Arts Commons, together with our partners at Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) is thrilled with today’s City of Calgary announcement to allocate $80M towards the Arts Commons Transformation (ACT) project, as part of its Greater Downtown Plan. This commitment means ACT can proceed through design development and completion of the Phase 1 expansion. Valued at $240 million, Phase 1 involves construction of a new building expected to include three versatile, purpose-built performance venues plus connections to the existing building and supporting amenities. Read the full media release. 

Friday, April 16, 2021
Today marks the first day in the public engagement on Arts Commons Transformation (ACT). As ACT development manager, CMLC is leading the engagement process which includes a 10-minute survey. Prior to this, CMLC has been engaging in round table discussions and interviews with key stakeholders to ensure all stakeholders are represented in the ACT planning process. 

As part of the public engagement, in addition to the survey, CMLC will also be hosting a new edition of their Placemakers series. Placemakers was designed and launched in 2015 as a community education and engagement initiative to promote CMLC’s efforts related to the successful transformation of East Village. This engagement event will take place on May 19, 2021 and focus on ACT, with the theme of: Designing Cultural Spaces in a Post-Pandemic World. The public will be invited to participate in the event, which will include ACT project team members – experts in their fields – as speakers and panelists: 

1) Alex Sarian – President and CEO, Arts Commons (presenter and panelist)

2) Joshua Dachs – Principal, Fisher Dachs Associates (presenter and panelist)

3) Steven Wolff – Principal, AMS Planning & Research (presenter and panelist)

4) Kate Thompson- President and CEO, CMLC (panelist) 

More information on this event will follow in the coming days and weeks. Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed of ACT engagement opportunities, as well as gain insight into Arts Commons programming and behind-the-scenes stories.

Thursday, February 4, 2021
As part of the CMLC 2021 Outlook event, CMLC’s President & CEO, Kate Thompson, along with Arts Commons President & CEO, Alex Sarian, announced the selection of the first two members of the Arts Commons Transformation project team. With CMLC as Development Manager, Colliers International (Calgary) will help guide project management, and Fisher Dachs Associates (New York), whose extensive expertise as specialized theatre consultants will see them bring the facility’s artistic vision to life. As one of the world's leading theatre consultants, Fisher Dachs will be planning and designing all the performance, audience and support spaces to deliver a truly modern and fully customized facility.

CMLC and Arts Commons will continue assembling the rest of the project team—prime designer, construction manager, and acoustic and specialty consultants—and anticipate that all will be in place by the summer of 2021. Over the next several months, the team will work directly with the resident companies who call Arts Commons home, along with citizens and community groups from across Calgary, to engage in a collaborative process of visioning and crafting just the right spaces to serve our city's future.

For more information, read the Media Release.

Thursday, October 29, 2020
Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), along with Arts Commons and The City of Calgary, held a virtual information session that outlined the upcoming procurement process to enable the selection of the project team(s) that will support the design process for the Arts Commons Transformation (ACT) project. There were approximately 155 unique firms with over 340 registrations for the event, ranging from firms in Canada, Mexico, the U.S., and Europe. The information session provided these architectural and construction management firms with the project objectives, details, and scope in order to respond to the Request for Proposals, which will be posted on a number of procurement websites. Applications in response to the RFP are able to be submitted up until November 9, 2020, at 2pm MST.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020
On Friday, October 9, 2020, along with our partners the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) and The City of Calgary, we announced the completion of a tri-party development agreement that will initiate the design process for ACT and position CMLC as development manager responsible for stewarding the design process on behalf of the partners. With the freshly signed agreement in place, the first step in the design process will be a competitive procurement process to assemble the design team who will be responsible for the design development over the next two years.

“We are thrilled to be initiating this first step in the process with CMLC and The City of Calgary, bringing forward a vibrant vision that reflects Calgary’s future.” - Alex Sarian, President and CEO of Arts Commons.

View the media release.

Monday, February 24, 2020
On Friday, February 21, 2020, the Provincial Government announced that the Glenbow would receive up to $40 million in infrastructure funding as part of their revitalization project. Arts Commons is thrilled with this news and is in full support. Along with the City and CMLC, we are committed to the elevation of arts and culture in our community, economic recovery, and the revitalization of the downtown core and its cultural district. This grant from the provincial government demonstrates the kind of vision and collaboration that is needed from all levels of government in order to achieve these goals. Making the Arts Commons Transformation project a reality aligns with these shared goals and we look forward to continuing discussions with our funding partners on ACT. In the meantime, Arts Commons is working with The City of Calgary and Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) to formalize the development agreement for CMLC to serve as project manager on the facility and initiate the detailed design process. We have full City support and look forward to getting all funding mechanisms in place so that we can move forward. Funding for the design work will come out of the City approval of $25M in MSI (Municipal Sustainability Initiative) money.

To date, we have 1,886 signatures from the private community in support of ACT and 320 letters of support from the business community.

Monday, September 30, 2019
City Council votes 12 to 2 in favour of the motion to endorse ACT and approve the appropriation of $22.5M in Cultural Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding ($2.5M was previously approved) for ACT, with authorization to invest $10M to achieve the detailed design work necessary for Phase One and Two. 

“This project actually has had far, far more work done for many years than any of the other three projects, in fact all of them combined,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Monday. “Frankly, they’ve been at it for so long it’s ready to go. It’s time to move forward.” (Calgary Herald, Oct 1, 2019)

Read full Herald article: City Council Approves Release of Funds 

July 4, 2019
A meeting is scheduled for Friday, July 19, 2019, for the ACAC (Arts Commons Advisory Committee) to receive the final report from the Functional Program Review Working Group, which will be completed by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC).

June 30, 2019
The Functional Program Review Working Group has completed its work, reviewing and assessing the functional program. A report is to be submitted by the committee to the ACAC.

April 8, 2019 
While unclear as to what specific projects this funding will apply to, we were pleased to hear the Federal government will support local (municipal) infrastructure priorities by providing a one-time top-up of $2.2 billion. This doubles the federal municipal infrastructure commitment in 2018-19, and will help municipalities pay for crucial repairs and other important local projects. 

March 27, 2019
The Functional Program Review Working Group work begins. Arts Commons met with the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) to draft a process for achieving the Working Group objectives. CMLC is in the process of meeting with resident companies to update and confirm resident company requirements and finalize the overall functional program. The hope is to have this work completed by the end of June, along with final cost estimates for the project.

March 25, 2019
With the addition of new team members joining the resident companies over the years, Arts Commons management and board hosted management and board members of each resident company for an evening, to provide additional information on ACT, and answer questions. This provided a foundation of knowledge to help facilitate future meetings and engagements with the Functional Program Review Working Group.

March 12, 2019
The Arts Commons Advisory Committee (ACAC) is finalized with the following members:

  • City Councillors: Druh Farrell, Shane Keating, Evan Woolley
  • City Manager, Glenda Cole
  • Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) President & CEO, Michael Brown
  • Arts Commons Chief Development Officer and Interim Co-CEO (non-voting), Greg Epton
  • Arts Commons Past Board Chair (non-voting), Henry Sykes
  • Calgary Arts Development Authority Ltd. (CADA) President & CEO (non-voting), Patti Pon

The mandate of the Committee is to complete a fulsome review and assessment of the renovation and expansion of the Arts Commons facility [Arts Commons Transformation project "ACT Project"], as adopted by Council (CPS2011-48) and report back to Council.

The Committee's specific responsibilities include:

  • A review and assessment of the ACT Project including:
    • the proposed project's alignment with Council priorities and The City's strategy, plans, research and policies;
    • the community need for and benefit of the proposed project's programs and offerings; and
    • the proposed project consistent with the Investing in Partnerships Policy capital project evaluation framework including the project business case; functional plan/program; operating plan and proformas; project budget (including costing); governance and project funding.
  • Provide a recommendation to Council regarding the ACT Project viability, funding, governance and implementation.

The ACAC also created three Working Groups, each comprised of relevant stakeholders tasked with achieving specific objectives:

  1. Functional Program Review Working Group
  2. Cultural & Convention District Working Group
  3. Financial Assessment Working Group

(Source: City of Calgary website:

March 4, 2019
After almost 13 hours in closed-door meetings, Calgary City Council approved the financial strategy for all four of the city’s long-term, previously unfunded projects (BMO Centre expansion, the Event Centre, Phase 1 of Arts Commons Transformation, and the Multi-Sport Fieldhouse). The presentation, recommendations, and closed session discussion currently remain confidential. While this decision provides some cause for celebration, there is still a lot of uncertainty, including the prioritizing of the projects and how the $71M in critical lifecycle issues that Phase 2 would focus on will be addressed.

Related news articles: 

February 22, 2019
Arts Commons joins the panel discussion hosted by Wordfest to discuss the Rivers District Master Plan and “What’s in it for YYC Arts & Culture”? Audience members voiced their concerns that artists don’t have a place to develop their skills, be supported, earn some money, and be valued. Many discussed the success of the new King Edward C-Space. Simon Mallett, former Artistic Director at Downstage (an Arts Commons Resident Company) and current ED at the Rosza Foundation, based in C-Space explained that Arts Commons is such a place, but that these support systems are not always visible due to the limitations of its infrastructure.

February 18, 2019
On February 4, 2019, in a Combined meeting of Council, two additional Councillors were named to the Arts Commons Advisory Committee (ACAC):

  1. Councillor Evan Woolley
  2. Councillor Shane Keating

February 1, 2019
On January 28, 2019 Calgary City Council held an important Strategic Meeting. The intent of the meeting was to strategize about funding and timing for four major unfunded capital projects: the BMO expansion, the event centre, the fieldhouse, and the Arts Commons Transformation Project (ACT). Council met for more than 9 hours, most of which was held in closed session. While formal decisions on funding and timing were not made on January 28, Council did pass two key resolutions to keep the conversation moving forward:

  1. Direct Administration to return with an update to Council no later than April 2019 with further refined options to optimize funding, financing and schedules for all four unfunded long-term projects
  2. That Council appoint Councillor Farrell as Chair and nominate up to two (2) Councillors to serve as members of the Arts Commons Advisory Committee (ACAC)

In the News:

“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