YK’s visitor centre headed for Centre Square Mall, pending GNWT funding

The Centre Square Mall (Photo supplied by MyTrueNorthNow.com staff.)
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The Centre Square Mall could be the new home for Yellowknife’s visitor’s centre.

The service, which would attract thousands of tourists in a normal year, is currently located in city hall.

It was moved there after the old Northern Frontier Visitors Centre was shut down because of deterioration, and demolished earlier this year.

City administration hopes moving the visitor centre will provide a boost, increased foot traffic and act as an “anchor tenant” in the Centre Square Mall, a location “long identified with Yellowknife’s struggling downtown retail district.”

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Supporting a new visitor’s centre was identified as a “key action” to jump start development in the downtown, as part of the 2018 Downtown Revitalization Strategy.

Councillor Steve Payne said this was an exciting project and would provide a boost to the city’s struggling tourism industry.

“When I moved here 25 years ago, that place was rocking and we’d spend our days off there,” he said in a council meeting on Monday.

“Hopefully years from now we can look back on this money and say, us putting this building in gave the area the kicker to get that building going ago,” Payne added.

One of the key issues the downtown revitalization strategy is aiming to tackle is the high vacancy rate — the number of empty lots without businesses in them — at Centre Square Mall. 

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Administration has submitted a funding request to CANNOR for $400,000 to assist with the anticipated capital costs. In order to meet CANNOR requirements, the municipality has to pay for 20 to 25 per cent. That money, $125,000 will come out of the city’s downtown development fund.

Costs are higher because there are some core issues with the space, like its heating and plumbing. Kerry Penney, director of legal services for the City of Yellowknife, said the space had been left in a “rough state” by the previous tenants.

Go-ahead on the project will wait until the GNWT’s Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment decides whether the city will receive increased funding to cover the higher rental costs with using the Centre Square Mall space.

Kenney said the project wouldn’t be able to go-ahead with the project without that additional support.

The GNWT sets out their operations and maintenance budget in February.

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