City councillors appear ready to approve an agreement that will bring Yellowknife one step closer to opening a new visitor centre.
On Monday, councillors discussed whether the city should enter into a five-year lease agreement for a unit in Centre Square Mall that would house the visitor centre.
According to city staff, Slate Asset Management – which owns part of the mall – says it will lease a unit to the city at a rate that covers Slate’s costs, while making upgrades to the unit estimated to cost $100,000.
Slate has agreed to reopen the mall’s 50 Street entrance in an accessible manner, estimated to cost $59,000. At the moment, that entrance is blocked off.
“We’re very pleased about this, but work cannot begin until we have a signed lease agreement,” city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett told councillors.
Any lease lasting longer than three years requires council approval.
City councillors appear supportive of the proposal.
“I think everyone will be excited to see a new visitor centre in Yellowknife again,” said Julian Morse, adding it would mean the city “putting the money where its mouth is” regarding downtown revitalization.
The city has been without a permanent centre since the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre closed in 2017 due to structural issues. The building, on the shore of Frame Lake, was demolished in April 2020. Since then, City Hall has served as a temporary visitor centre.
The city noted on Monday that Centre Square Mall has been “long identified with Yellowknife’s struggling downtown retail district.”
Once tourists return, city staff said, a steady stream of foot traffic would make the space more attractive to local businesses and increase spending in the local economy.
In April, the federal government agreed to contribute $377,587 toward the reopening of a visitor centre in Yellowknife. The territorial government has agreed to provide $161,000, with the city allocating $125,000 to the project.
The city said the territorial Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment has agreed to increase the annual funding in 2021-22 to assist with rental costs.
Councillors will formally vote on the lease at their regular meeting on May 24.