Courtesy of Stantec A drawing taken from the Celebration Centre proposal.

The ambitious plan to build a performing arts centre in downtown London is going under the microscope again.

We need more answers, council members and staff said Monday to Music London, the non-profit that is leading the $164-million project.

And it includes considering whether the new Celebration Centre is being planned for the right site.

Already, the city has hired consulting firm Novita to take a good look at the centre’s business plan. Music London wants the new facility to replace Centennial Hall, with the help of $16 million from municipal budgets.

But, city treasurer Martin Hayward and his staff still aren’t satisfied, so the city’s investment and economic prosperity committee has asked Novita to take another, more detailed, look.

“The business plan needs some additional information for us to get behind it and say, ‘Yes, I can endorse this for you’,” Hayward told councillors.

“There’s some pretty basic information that we still need to get,” added Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen.

He also wants Music London to seek federal and provincial grants now, and not just at some point in the future. The centre’s business plan includes developers’ money but it all hinges on public funding.

“The goal is to provide a really comprehensive picture of the market for a performing arts facility,” Hayward said.

Three areas will be the focus of the new review:

Market analysis

  • Is there a demand? The consultants will also look at competing centres, like the London Convention centre and Budweiser Gardens.

Facility program and design criteria

  • This will be a detailed examination of each area of the centre, which is designed as a shared space for different arts groups and performances.
  • The plan is to critique its functions, dimensions and different spaces, like the auditorium and stage.

Site analysis

  • Hayward summed this up as: “To identify the characteristics and physical requirements of a site to support a mid-sized performing arts facility.”
  • If it goes ahead in its current form, it will see a hall replace Centennial Hall and two new towers built, for housing and a hotel.

Timescale

  • The review will take eight weeks. That takes it dangerously close to the fall election, and the period when council becomes a “lame duck,” and legally unable to take decisions that cost the city more than $50,000.

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