Myer Horowitz renovation expense: $17.5M. Its actual worth? Questionable

Margarito Gregerson

On December 1st, Students’ Council will vote on whether or not to use the Sustainability and Funds Fund to renovate the Myer Horowitz Theatre, a job approximated to cost $17.5 million.

The renovation has arguably been the main intention of the Students’ Union (SU) over the past 4 decades and, as these, the vote promises to be a pivotal instant in the development of our campus group. 

On the other hand, right after four a long time and various updates about the job, there are nevertheless numerous excellent questions about whether or not the costly renovation is certainly to the benefit of students. 

The fundamental rationale for the Myer Horowitz renovation has largely remained the identical due to the fact the task was initially proposed in June 2016. Considering that the theatre has not been renovated because 1983, quite a few of the furnishings and engineering inside of the theatre has become outdated. By renovating and increasing the area, the SU hopes to make the Hyer Horowitz a lot more eye-catching for pupil groups and exterior clientele to lease. 

Ultimately, advocates of the renovation argue this will accomplish two targets. Initial, the renovation proposal guarantees to create a campus local community hub — a spot exactly where learners from throughout diverse schools can occur with each other to maintain situations for a low expense. The second intention is to diversify the SU’s revenue streams and lower their reliance on university student fees, as some consider a recently renovated theatre will attract additional 3rd parties to lease the Myer Horowitz. 

Over-all, the goals them selves are not terrible. The pandemic has highlighted the worth of our campus group and that learners must get benefit from our costs. Nevertheless, when we seem closer at the aspects, it is questionable if renovating the Myer Horowitz actually achieves these aims. 

1st, I continue to be unconvinced that college student teams will be inclined to use a recently-renovated theatre for activities. At present, the Myer Horowitz is mainly utilized by external teams somewhat than by learners. In reality, pupil events only comprised 36 for each cent of the theatre’s event times in 2019. I see handful of reasons to imagine that a renovation will modify this.

To be reasonable, advocates of the challenge do figure out this is an situation. In order to try and appeal to far more scholar groups, the SU hopes to offer lower costs for scholar events and will examine new types of partnerships for pupil groups, these kinds of as a “revenue-sharing” product. The particulars of this model are still to be made.

However, I struggle to see the system drawing college students to the theatre. It is unclear why college student teams — who are normally small on funds — would spend cash to hire the theatre, even at a lessen price tag, when there are alternate venues on campus that are cheaper or outright no cost. Even if the theatre is a substantially nicer place, we’re university students: if we can get something for free, that’s the path we’ll commonly take.

Beyond this, a renovation does not automatically promise an boost in income. More recent seats, far better technological know-how, and a much larger foyer will make the theatre unquestionably greater. At the end of the day, having said that, the Myer Horowitz even now has to compete with numerous other superior-finish function spaces in Edmonton, which include University’s possess Lister Centre and Timms Centre on campus. If the SU is major about pursuing this renovation, there must be dependable estimates around how a lot income a renovated Myer Horowitz could hope to increase. 

This is specifically critical when we appear at the Myer Horowitz’s recent earnings. According to the newest audited money statements on the SU’s web site, the theatre created a revenue of around 50 % a million pounds in 2018. Even so, factoring in functioning expenses, the Myer Horowitz built a internet financial gain of just over $64,000 that calendar year. Given that the renovation expenses $17.5 million, it’s essential to at minimum estimate how a great deal earnings we could anticipate from a new theatre.

Presented these factors, the Students’ Council need to strongly rethink whether or not this high priced renovation will accomplish its supposed targets. I fully grasp the attractiveness of the project — I’d enjoy to have a area exactly where learners can appear together as a group that also raises cash. Nonetheless, unless a lot more particulars are offered, we can’t say with fair certainty that a renovated Myer Horowitz theatre is this excellent space. 

As an alternative, here’s what we can say with certainty about the project. Initially, the renovation’s cost tag has continually gone up considering that it was very first proposed in 2016. Initially, the venture was estimated to cost $11 million and $9.5 million was supposed to be lifted as a result of choice funding sources, such as grants or donations. As these, the SU would’ve only financed $1.5 million of the task — still not low-cost but not an outrageous amount.

4 yrs later and the most recent proposal bears small money resemblance to the unique. In accordance to a presentation on November 23, 2020 the complete task now fees $17.5 million and the SU only estimates to obtain $1.3 to $4.7 million in alternate funding. This leaves the SU with a monthly bill of all-around $12.9 to $16.2 million — previously mentioned eight instances the sum they predicted to pay back in 2016.

The only other certainty is that the SU has struggled to get learners on board with the venture. This is finest observed by means of the Scholar Occasions Initiative (SEI). The SEI would’ve charged pupils a charge of $8.50 a semester in order to finance the renovation, alongside a couple of other grants for scholar groups. Nevertheless, the campus group turned down the SEI in a referendum, proficiently killing the proposal. The SU then tried to achieve funding for the process again via the Student Areas Levy, a very similar rate. Nonetheless, it was decisively defeated at Students’ Council prior to it could go to referendum, as councillors felt that they did not have sufficient time to evaluate the proposal. 

The SU lastly succeeded in reaching new earnings sources last calendar year, when the Sustainability and Money Fund (SCF) passed a scholar referdrum. Having said that, the SCF was not a referendum about renovating the Myer Horowitz. The SCF was about generating a fund for projects which handle environmental and financial sustainability difficulties, this kind of as local climate adjust and deferred servicing. Whilst the Myer Horowitz renovation may arguably tumble into this group, no 1 really should mistake the SCF referendum as college students pledging their assist for the renovation. 

Searching at the evolution of the project, SU associates have to have to seriously inquire by themselves irrespective of whether the Myer Horowitz renovation will serve the demands of college students. 

College students assume to get benefit from their expenses. If Students’ Council decides to fund the costly Myer Horowitz theatre renovation challenge, they much better be certain learners see value in the project and that the venture will unquestionably supply on its promised results. Supplied the concerns remaining unanswered over the past 4 yrs, I’m not absolutely sure any university student consultant can be selected it does.

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