City to decide this evening if it is going to backstop a request for an additional million for the Brant Museum re-build.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

July 10th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster asked her colleagues to “backstop” the Museum Boards $1 million request so that the work on the plans that will triple the size of the Joseph Brant museum can begin.

Lancaster is banking on the province to come through with the needed funds – if they don’t – the city will not get back the funds it advanced.

2_Joseph_Brant_Painting_George_Romney-1200x500

A small museum that was focused on the story of the man who basically founded the city could undergo a significant change today.

“I wanted to provide you with an update on the Joseph Brant Museum and to seek your support for moving the project forward” said Lancaster at a Standing Committee meeting last week.

The following funds have been committed reported Lancaster:

City of Burlington: $2,120,000 committed, with the same amount allocated
Joseph Brant Museum Foundation: $2,589,559 committed, but not yet fully raised
Federal Government: $4,479,000 committed through Cultural Spaces Fund
Provincial Government: $500,000 committed through Ontario Trillium Foundation

Total Committed Funds: $9,688,559

Lancaster reported that there is “an approximate funding gap of about $1M. The city has a request before the Provincial Government for the remaining funding.”

She added that “Previous estimates of the total project cost were about $10.4M, those estimates were based on construction starting in early 2017. Staff have noted that the project cost may be higher depending on when construction begins; there is usually a premium on construction costs if substantial work occurs over the winter months.

Lancaster was asking that the city provide funding from the Capital Purposes Reserve Fund,

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward, who was chairing the meeting, asked if Lancaster’s motion could be amended to have the Museum Foundation promise to repay the city the money the city was being asked to put up was not received from the province.

“No” was the quick blunt response from Lancaster.

Along with the request for funds was a mention of the need to transfer some property from the hospital to the city.

Brant Museum rendering

The replica of the original Brant House will be pivoted and then raised to create a new street level entrance.

The property on which the museum sits has a bit of a checkered past. It was a 3,450 acre tract of land Brant got from the Missisauga’s. Brant built the house and lived in it for some time. He farmed about 100 acres and was said to have developed “a fine orchard”.

At some point the property slipped into the hands of the federal government. Some of the land appears in the Joseph Brant Hospital financial statements as the “Brant Trust”

overview-aerial-brant-museum-new

Aerial of the architect’s rendering for the new museum.

The city now needs to get that trust transferred into its hands – a task that is not going to be a slam dunk.

While the facts are not completely clear, the land appears to have been kept in a Trust that is managed by the hospital.

At one point former Mayor Walter Mulkewich remembers measuring the distance the Brant Museum had to be moved to allow an expansion to the hospital.

brant-museum-rendering

It will be a substantially different building and be the entrance way to the Beachway community that the city has planned. Lakeshore Road will be a much different place when all this is done.

At the time Mulkewich said he remembers a trip to Ottawa where talks took place with the then department of Public Works to get the permissions needed to move the Brant house the couple of hundred yards that were necessary for the hospital to add to their structure.

The city has its Finance department working on the land transfer.

The motion Lancaster was putting forward called for the Director of Finance to report back to Council in September providing an update on the land transfer, updated capital costs, operating impacts and the provisional financing required.

Lakeshore Road to hospital

Lakeshore Road today: This point in the road is just past where the new museum will be built.

The debate on the matter last week was limited to comments from Councillors Craven, Sharman and Lancaster with Meed Ward serving as Chair disagreeing with Lancaster on a number of points.

Councillor Dennison, who has never been a fan of tax payers money being used for all that much in the world of culture. Councillor Craven said it was time for a sophisticated city to have a sophisticated museum.

The motion for the “back stop” funding was approved. Neither the Mayor nor Councillor Taylor spoke to the motion.

There are a lot of questions about both the funding and just what is going to be done at the much bigger museum operation. Will it even be a museum? The public will never get inside the building that is a replica of the original Brant house. The house will be used for administrative purposes.

gorget

The gorget, presented to Brant by King George III is perhaps the best piece in the collection.

The actual Brant collection borders on pathetic. The “library” is a collection of books that do not appear to be catalogued and are pretty tattered. There are a number of very good paintings and the museum does own the gorget presented to Brant by King George III.

Don’t mention the words “ongoing research” about Brant – no such thing. There isn’t anyone on staff that knows all that much about the man.

There seems to be a drive to create a place that can house touring shows that the city can attract.

In all the chatter about a “world class” museum no one from either the Museum Foundation or the Museum Board has ever outlined the kind of event the city would have taking place in the space.

Museum Doyle

John Doyle – Burlington Museum Foundation

Museum Larry Waldron

Larry Waldron – Burlington Museum Board

The funds that the Museum Foundation has raised came from a bequest to the Museum Foundation that turned out to be a lot larger than many expected. We are talking millions here.

Larry Waldron and John Boyle have worked for more than a decade to get a new museum built – they need just another million to get shovels into the ground.

City council was told that the Museum Board has a business model that will cover any increased operating expenses – that business model has yet to see the light of day. Given the level of transparency of Museum affairs in the recent past – nothing should be taken for granted.

A number of months ago the Museum was closed – a fact that was not revealed to anyone at the time. Lancaster who was on the Museum Board representing the city wasn’t aware of the closing.

At the time the Brant Museum was closed it was because of the re-building of Lakeshore Road which made sense – the decision to not re-open without at least making the city council representative aware of the decision is something that was never satisfactorily explained.

Barb Teatero JBMF

Museum Board Executive Director Barb Teatero appearing before city council.

One can only imagine the conversation that took place between Councillor Lancaster and Barb Teatero, the Executive Director of the Museum Board that manages both the Brant Museum and Ireland House over that matter.

Another concern is the location of the much enlarged museum. The entrance will be on Lakeshore Road which will become the main entrance to the Brant Hospital – including ambulance traffic. That road is a single lane as it rounds the museum – the tour buses that are going to ‘bring those thousands of visitors to the museum’ has the potential to clog traffic.

Far too many questions for city council to put up $1 million that they may never see returned.

The Motion that was approved at Standing Committee was passed. It now goes to city Council this evening: July 10th.

Whereas, the City of Burlington continues to support the expansion of the Joseph Brant Museum; and

Whereas, with the financial contributions from the Federal and Provincial Governments, the Museum Transformation project is closer than ever to being realized; and

Whereas, the city has a request before the Provincial Government and we continue to work with them to secure the remaining funds

Therefore, be it resolved that the Council of the City of Burlington:

Support the continuation of staff and the Museum Foundation efforts to resolve the transfer of lands; provide updated costing for the project; and ensure the fundraising campaign is underway

Approve provisional financing in the amount of $1M from the Capital Purposes Reserve Fund subject to not realizing further Provincial Government funding

Direct the Director of Finance to report back to Council in September 2017 providing an update on the land transfer, updated capital costs, operating impacts and the provisional financing required.

The motion which goes to council this evening July 10th, has the potential to become a rabbit hole that will be home to tales of wonder.

Related article

A second opinion.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly

6 comments to City to decide this evening if it is going to backstop a request for an additional million for the Brant Museum re-build.

  • Glenda D

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhh…..another no where project….bus loads of tourist my foot…..Projects like this and the Marina are NOT what made Burlington what a magazine calls a world class city…nor does it need these waste of taxpayer funds projects.

  • Lonely Taxpayer

    Preserving and investing in local culture & history is good for the community, and added tourism helps the economy.

    This Brant project has an up front price tag of $10M.

    Since $9.6M is already available – just scale back 4% of the project to match the funds available – and start the project now.

    Waiting a year to chase another 400K will result in the cost of the whole project increasing by more than the amount being chased.

    The price tag will eventually grow so far out of reach that the project will be abandoned. Nothing constructed yet many dollars wasted with nothing to show for it.

    However, once the new attraction is open and generating a profit, then begin Phase II to complete the scaled back portion.

    I’m sure there is an opportunity to find 4% savings in a $10M project if someone really tries.

  • Glenda D

    Read that the new part will be the museum and the house will become (or is) office and whatever space…..I’m sorry but that does not make sense to me…the house is what part of the history is about…the artifacts being within the house is far more an attraction than putting them in a sterile new building in a glass case display…Don’t see why an addition to the back of the house can’t be built to hold the office staff…and don’t tell me it will ruin the historic house if all that house will be used for is “office space”…..and I do not believe it will ever generate a profit…like a few other projects….cost drain on taxpayers.

    • Anna

      Precisely my thought reading this! The house will be used for offices?! What is even the point of this then? I’m generally in favour of spending on arts and culture, as I feel it really can enrich the community when done well, but this stinks of a scheme to move taxpayer money into private hands for something no one asked for or needs.

      Looks like we are well on our way to Pier Part II with this.

  • Penny

    Total waste of money…..Joseph Brant would probably wish that this money be used wisely, not on a building, but in the communities of his people that could really use it, and would make a difference.

    • Glenda D

      Agreed Penny but how does one completely stop the project and have them keep it a true “historic” site and not some fancy store front something that a few feel will increase it’s appeal as a big tourist attraction…and as part of the pipe dram where will all those supposedly tourist buses park….what makes places like the Ireland house Pioneer Village and like a draw is the authenticity of the display not some sterile glass enclosed collection.