BattlefordsNOW has learned a large plot of downtown land where a five-screen cinema was set to be built, has been deemed unviable due to contamination. As such, construction of the cinema will not happen as originally proposed and no new location has been finalized as of yet.
On July 11, 2016 the city announced a deal with Magic Lantern Theatres (M.L.T.) to bring the first five-screen cinema to the city. The empty lot beside the liquor store was considered the perfect spot and was sold to M.L.T. for a dollar. Construction was supposed to start within weeks of the sale but for some reason it never did, now we know why.
Oil contamination from a car dealership, which used to operate on the land decades ago, has halted the project. According to Tom Hutchinson with Magic Lantern, the contamination is 25 feet deep, making it impossible to build on without a very costly remediation of the land.
In a statement from the city, they said no contamination was found during preliminary testing before the sale, however shortly after the sale, soil contamination was found on a portion of the property.
“A risk management plan for remediation and off-site impacts has been submitted to the province for approval,” said Jennifer Niesink, director of planning and development for the city.
According to the statement, geotechnical work was conducted by P. Machibroda Engineering out of Saskatoon. The city said they conducted several samples throughout the general area and preliminary results have been received.
The project has not been cancelled, however a new location must now be found.
“Throughout the duration of the planning process for the theatre, several downtown locations were discussed,” The city’s statement said. “The city recognizes the importance of the theatre to the downtown and will ensure the project remains downtown.”
The city still owns the contaminated land. According to an official, land doesn’t transfer over after a sale until a foundation has been built. When asked what the plan is now for the current contaminated site, the city replied it was working with the Ministry of Environment.
“The city will follow the requirements as set out by the Ministry of Environment,” he statement read. “A risk management plan has been submitted to the Ministry of Environment for approval.”
Greg Higgins is battlefordsNOW's city municipal affairs and health reporter. He can be reached at [email protected] or tweet him @realgreghiggins.
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