Myer Horowitz renovation price tag: $17.5M. Its true worth? Questionable

On December 1st, Students’ Council will vote on irrespective of whether to use the Sustainability and Cash Fund to renovate the Myer Horowitz Theatre, a project estimated to price tag $17.5 million.

The renovation has arguably been the major intention of the Students’ Union (SU) more than the past four a long time and, as this sort of, the vote promises to be a pivotal instant in the development of our campus group. 

Nevertheless, right after four a long time and multiple updates about the venture, there are continue to numerous remarkable queries about regardless of whether the expensive renovation is actually to the benefit of learners. 

The fundamental rationale for the Myer Horowitz renovation has mainly remained the identical considering that the job was first proposed in June 2016. Because the theatre has not been renovated due to the fact 1983, a lot of of the furnishings and engineering in the theatre has turn into outdated. By renovating and growing the room, the SU hopes to make the Hyer Horowitz extra beautiful for university student groups and exterior purchasers to rent. 

In the long run, advocates of the renovation argue this will reach two goals. Initially, the renovation proposal promises to produce a campus neighborhood hub — a location exactly where learners from throughout various colleges can appear jointly to hold functions for a reduced expense. The second purpose is to diversify the SU’s revenue streams and decrease their reliance on pupil service fees, as some imagine a recently renovated theatre will appeal to additional third events to lease the Myer Horowitz. 

Total, the objectives themselves aren’t lousy. The pandemic has highlighted the worth of our campus neighborhood and that students must get price from our expenses. Nonetheless, when we glimpse closer at the particulars, it’s questionable if renovating the Myer Horowitz really achieves these targets. 

To start with, I remain unconvinced that college student groups will be inclined to use a recently-renovated theatre for functions. At this time, the Myer Horowitz is primarily applied by exterior groups relatively than by learners. In simple fact, scholar functions only comprised 36 per cent of the theatre’s party times in 2019. I see couple good reasons to feel that a renovation will transform this.

To be truthful, advocates of the project do figure out this is an challenge. In buy to consider and draw in more student teams, the SU hopes to offer lessen charges for pupil gatherings and will discover new varieties of partnerships for college student groups, this kind of as a “revenue-sharing” design. The facts of this design are nevertheless to be designed.

Still, I battle to see the plan drawing college students to the theatre. It is unclear why student groups — who are often quick on dollars — would spend dollars to rent the theatre, even at a lessen price tag, when there are alternate venues on campus that are cheaper or outright cost-free. Even if the theatre is a a lot nicer room, we’re college college students: if we can get anything for absolutely free, that is the path we’ll ordinarily get.

Further than this, a renovation does not always guarantee an improve in revenue. More recent seats, much better technology, and a larger foyer will make the theatre certainly superior. At the end of the working day, on the other hand, the Myer Horowitz still has to compete with lots of other substantial-end party spaces in Edmonton, which include University’s have Lister Centre and Timms Centre on campus. If the SU is major about pursuing this renovation, there ought to be trusted estimates over how much revenue a renovated Myer Horowitz could hope to increase. 

This is in particular essential when we glimpse at the Myer Horowitz’s present-day earnings. In accordance to the most current audited money statements on the SU’s website, the theatre built a earnings of roughly fifty percent a million pounds in 2018. Even so, factoring in functioning costs, the Myer Horowitz created a web profit of just around $64,000 that calendar year. Considering the fact that the renovation expenses $17.5 million, it’s critical to at the very least estimate how much earnings we could count on from a new theatre.

Presented these components, the Students’ Council need to strongly rethink no matter if or not this high priced renovation will accomplish its intended aims. I have an understanding of the attractiveness of the task — I’d love to have a space where learners can arrive alongside one another as a group that also raises income. On the other hand, unless extra aspects are introduced, we are not able to say with realistic certainty that a renovated Myer Horowitz theatre is this ideal space. 

Rather, here’s what we can say with certainty about the venture. First, the renovation’s value tag has consistently absent up since it was to start with proposed in 2016. At first, the task was estimated to price $11 million and $9.5 million was intended to be lifted by means of alternate funding sources, this kind of as grants or donations. As this kind of, the SU would’ve only financed $1.5 million of the undertaking — continue to not inexpensive but not an outrageous amount of money.

Four yrs afterwards and the most current proposal bears little money resemblance to the original. According to a presentation on November 23, 2020 the overall venture now costs $17.5 million and the SU only estimates to get $1.3 to $4.7 million in option funding. This leaves the SU with a bill of around $12.9 to $16.2 million — over 8 occasions the volume they anticipated to pay out in 2016.

The only other certainty is that the SU has struggled to get students on board with the job. This is greatest observed by the College student Activities Initiative (SEI). The SEI would’ve billed students a payment of $8.50 a semester in purchase to finance the renovation, alongside a handful of other grants for scholar groups. Even so, the campus group turned down the SEI in a referendum, correctly killing the proposal. The SU then experimented with to obtain funding for the process once more by the Student Areas Levy, a equivalent cost. But, it was decisively defeated at Students’ Council prior to it could go to referendum, as councillors felt that they didn’t have adequate time to assess the proposal. 

The SU last but not least succeeded in acquiring new income resources past 12 months, when the Sustainability and Money Fund (SCF) handed a college student referdrum. Nonetheless, the SCF was not a referendum about renovating the Myer Horowitz. The SCF was about developing a fund for jobs which handle environmental and economic sustainability troubles, this sort of as local weather transform and deferred routine maintenance. Although the Myer Horowitz renovation could arguably slide into this classification, no a person ought to oversight the SCF referendum as pupils pledging their assistance for the renovation. 

Wanting at the evolution of the undertaking, SU associates need to critically talk to them selves no matter if the Myer Horowitz renovation will serve the requirements of learners. 

Learners anticipate to get price from their costs. If Students’ Council decides to fund the high priced Myer Horowitz theatre renovation challenge, they superior be absolutely sure college students see worth in the project and that the project will without doubt produce on its promised outcomes. Provided the concerns left unanswered around the past 4 many years, I’m not confident any pupil representative can be selected it does.