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Summerside to lease land to planned discovery centre for $1 a year


The City of Summerside has agreed to lease a small parcel of land in the west end to two non-profit organizations for $1 a year for the next 50 years.

Ron Perry, a representative of the P.E.I. Y Service Club, and Tracy Brown, executive director of the Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association, presented to Summerside city councill Tuesday, their vision for a discovery centre and planetarium here. 

The groups, the Summerside Y Service Club and the Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association (BBEMA), want to build a science discovery centre on the land, which is about three acres located adjacent to the public parking lot at the end of the MacKenzie Drive.

The discovery centre has been in the planning stage for more than two years.

This commitment from the city will allow the Y and BBEMA to continue to move the project along to the next phase, said Coun. Tyler Desroches, who represents the Community Services department on council.

“They needed this for some of their funding, ”said Desroches, regarding the land deal.

“They needed us to show that we’re behind it.”

But the city’s support of the project only goes so far. Council has expressed trepidation before regarding putting any significant amount of tax dollars towards the development of the project, and the motion passed during Monday night’s council meeting to allow the land lease reiterated there is no financial commitment from the city at this point. The city did, however, contribute $5,000 to help the two groups get help with a feasibility plan and blueprints in August of 2015.

The deal also includes a guarantee of tax abatement for the centre, but those details will be negotiated later. 

In terms what the centre entails, BBEMA and the Y gave a description to council last year when they request the initial funding.

At that time the design was about 20,000 square feet, consisting of a planetarium, which is a room where the night sky can be projected onto a domed ceiling, science galleries, nature exhibits, local marine life aquarium, insectarium, and community rooms.

The Y also indicated at that time that it had $300,000 in the bank earmarked for this project. BBEMA would provide much of the scientific staff who would conduct research out of the building and integrate children and families into their work. Both charities are also willing to provide volunteers to run to the centre and to work on a capital fundraising campaign to raise the money to build it. Federal and provincial government funding sources would also be tapped to help with construction.

It’s a great project with potential to draw people to Summerside, said Desroches, and there is the added bonus of it being community-driven and not relying on municipal funding.

“The city is behind any project that brings economic development to the city where taxpayers don’t have to put the coppers into it,” said Desroches.

Colin.MacLean@JournalPioneer.com

@JournalPMacLean

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