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A formal lease agreement is closer to being signed between the City of Yellowknife and management at Centre Square Mall to host a visitor centre in the downtown core.

City staff presented a memorandum at the May 10 governance and priorities committee meeting that requested council enter a five-year lease agreement with HREIT Holdings.

Council won’t vote on the proposal until the May 25 regular council meeting.

The project has been advancing since councillors embraced it in a presentation last December.

The federal government announced $377,587 toward the initiative last month while the GNWT has committed $161,000.

The city has also used $125,00 of its downtown improvement reserve toward the project.

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Council heard on Monday that city staff have been working with Slate Asset Management on preparatory work for a yet undisclosed move-in date.

Representatives from the municipality and the mall management company are working on a design of the space, how the area will look surrounding the leased pod and how the doors will be reopened for public access.

The visitors centre will occupy a 4,022-square-foot space formerly used by the Bank of Montreal.

“We’re very pleased about this, but work cannot begin until, of course, we have a signed lease agreement. This is required before any construction or real building design can happen inside,” said city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett.

“We do see that the opportunity to rejuvenate downtown and what has been a really lackluster area will really be enhanced with increased foot traffic and making that space as well more attractive to smaller businesses who would see the visitor centre as an anchor tenant.”

Slate is expected to lease the space to the city over the five years “at a cost recovery rate” and has invested $100,000. The doors at the 50 Street entrance, which have been closed for over a decade, will be reopened as part of the agreement.

According to the city memorandum, engineering and construction costs associated with this work are estimated to be about $59,000.

Councillors were again receptive to the development.

Coun. Julian Morse said he sees it as the city putting its money where its mouth is for downtown revitalization.

“I am supportive of this and I’m happy to see that Slate is committing to invest a pretty significant amount of money in the space to help the city get it set up,” he said.

Coun. Niels Konge said the new space should help revive the central business core while welcoming newcomers following the pandemic.

“If we get our tourism numbers back up to where they were, it’s going to push a lot of tourists through that space that is currently under-utilized and hopefully it will become a more attractive place,” he said.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. A through and through "County boy" from Prince Edward County, Ont., Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin...

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  1. Worst location ever. I can’t believe our City Council thinks this is a good idea. In addition to it being a terrible location for a visitor centre, how do you spell “Community Economic Leakage”. This building is not locally or northern owned.