The deCoste Performing Arts Centre and the Murray Family are working to make sure the ‘arts are truly for everyone’.
Seeing opportunity to help with the deCoste’s bold new plans for redevelopment, the Murray Family negotiated the purchase of the former Chinese food restaurant on Water Street and donated the money to the Town of Pictou for its purchase.
The structure was demolished, by Moody Mansour and Partners Construction, to provide more accessible parking for the deCoste and the library redevelopment project which will create a cultural hub under one roof.
Troy Greencorn, executive director of the deCoste, is elated with the news.
“This is a great step forward for this project. It shows the incredible support of the Murray family. The work to expand and upgrade the deCoste and add a modern new library has been underway for over three years. There are many steps and layers, but this announcement shows we are moving steadily ahead. COVID-19 has introduced delays and we are working through these.”
Speaking on behalf of The Murray Family, Crystal Murray says, “The library project is such an exciting opportunity for our community. Our family has been committed to the idea from the beginning and it’s been wonderful to watch the plan evolve.”
The plans to demolish the building will change the landscape of the waterfront but will enhance the area for many people, most notably those with mobility issues.
“There were a few issues that all of the parties involved wanted to address to make sure that project, when completed, was the very best it could be. Parking and accessibility are very important elements of any community design. When our family saw an opportunity for the enhancement of these pieces of the plan we wanted to help. It’s always sad to see a building removed from our familiar landscapes but there will be a lot to be gained in the future enjoyment of the deCoste Performing Arts Centre and the new library as a part of this cultural hub,” says Murray.
Pictou Mayor Jim Ryan says the purchase of the property represents important enhancements to the proposed Cultural Hub Project including additional accessible parking and an improved streetscape. “This project, that brings together two very important and successful partners, will be a stimulus for future development of our downtown and waterfront district. The Town expresses its sincere appreciation to Shirley Murray and the Bruce F. Murray Family Foundation for the generous contribution that made this purchase possible, and their continued leadership and support of this and other community initiatives.”
The new Pictou Library will include meeting rooms, gathering spaces, tech areas, art displays and more. The library envisions its user counts more than doubling which it has said will help spark the revitalization of the downtown area. Over the past few years, the deCoste has increased its membership by more than double, under Greencorn’s leadership, and has seen a significant increase in the number of shows and programs its hosts — even finding ways recently to host performances while complying with regulations on gathering limit in the face of COVID-19 restrictions.
“The pandemic has also shown us how essential it is to have modern facilities that allow us to gather while keeping our users safe. We hope to create one of the safest facilities in the province, from a pandemic perspective. New buildings will have touchless/automated washroom and entries/exits and advanced filtering technology in HVAC systems as examples. Since re-opening in August we are hosting an even wider range of events/users, including council meetings and recreation programs. We have even provided study space to university students who have internet connectivity challenges at home.”
Significant public consultation has shaped the plans and designs, Greencorn says.
“We heard repeatedly that expanded parking was needed. We also know that continued improvements to the accessibility of our facility are essential. Our new wheelchair lift, installed in 2019, has been used at virtually every event since. We will strive with the updated/expanded facility to achieve full Rick Hansen Foundation certification. Additional accessible parking will be a key element in the plan.”