New Royal Alberta Museum will be built downtown
Six years after committing to remake the Royal Alberta Museum, the Stelmach administration unveiled big plans: the premier announced a new $340 million state-of-the-art facility will be built in the city's core.
Construction, which will add double the gallery space compared to the existing Glenora museum, is slated to start this year, with the venue open to the public by 2015.
"Just as the great urban centres around the world are known for their great museums, known for their cultural facilities, so too will this great city," said Ed Stelmach.
The premier says his team decided that renovating the existing museum, which is situated beside the Government house, wouldn't work because of space and accessibility restraints. He argued upgrades would have meant closing up the building for as many as four years, and would have required building a second, stand-alone museum that could house the human history collection – an undertaking he argues isn't cost-effective.
"This announcement puts to rest the challenges the museum has faced at the existing site. It will now be free to develop into a cultural institution well-equipped for the future - a museum with the room, accessibility, and connections it needs to become an iconic institution respected around the world," Stelmach said.
Provincial officials say the new site – located on the northeast corner of 103A Avenue and 99th Street - will allow space for international exhibits, and will be accessible by LRT and bus routes.
The facility will be built on land currently occupied by the post office, and will be within view of the Art Gallery and City Hall.
The Mayor suggests it's the latest gem in the effort to revitalize downtown Edmonton.
"This is about building a better city, a more creative city, a more dynamic city," said Stephen Mandel. ":I think this is a really important part of our future."
This spring, a competitive bidding process will seek out a private sector consortium to design and build the new facility.
Officials say $180 million is earmarked for the project over the first three years, which includes $30 million previously committed by the Government of Canada.
Some people may be skeptical the project will get done, however. Back in 2005 the government made a nearly identical vow with a grand ceremony attended by the Queen. While $150 million was pledged to update the existing museum, no action was ever taken.
"I've been feeling the heat on this from several people since I took this job back in April of 2008," said Lindsay Blackett, the Minister of Culture and Community Spirit.
But the province assures this time, plans will move forward.
According to a release issued Thursday, the current museum, which was built 44 years ago, will continue to be used for public purposes. Government House will maintain its functions on the site and a new Lieutenant Governor's residence will be constructed on the grounds.
Officials say the new location would be a viable option for a high-speed train station if a line is every built between Calgary and Edmonton.
In 2007, the government purchased land near the downtown of Alberta's southern city, securing an area to build a future train station there.
With Files from Scott Roberts