Update following the 29 June Executive Committee Meeting regarding the fate of Hangar 14
Dear Alberta Aviation Museum members, member groups, and friend in the community.
It’s a long message– but if there’s one action item – it is to please write letters /phone your City Councillors and encourage them to not accept Administration’s Report at the July 4th City Council meeting, and explore other options. City Council has been supportive so far – it is the administration staff that is pushing for the sale of Hangar 14 – but the decision lies with Council.
I’d like to provide an update regarding the Hangar 14 investment study and the recommendation that City Administration has to sell Hangar 14 and help us find somewhere else to go. We’ve been in the media over the past few days – with links provided below for you to listen to / watch / share on social media:
27 June – 630 CHED with J’Lyn Nye
28 June – City TV News with Laura Krause
29 June – CBC Radio Active with Stacey Brotzel
30 June – CBC News
The Executive Committee Meeting recording for 29 June can be found at YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
If it does not load at the proper time – skip ahead to 4:49:11, which starts with the Administration presentation. I’ve typed out a rough transcript if you prefer – it’s not perfectly accurate, and probably has quite a few typos still – but is attached if you’d prefer to read, rather than listen.
On June 29th, City Administration presented their report to the city’s Executive Committee (Mayor Sohi, Councillor Anne Stevenson, Councillor Jennifer Rice, Councillor Andrew Knack), based on the extensive engineering studies conducted by the City of Edmonton on Hangar 14 in recent years. Because of extensive maintenance required to keep Hangar 14 habitable and safe, which they are estimating to cost a minimum of $41 million, City Administration’s presentation was framed that they will be “disposing of the asset.” Essentially, this means that they plan to sell Hangar 14 to a private owner.
Hangar 14 is a protected heritage building both by the city and the province, so the private owner would be required to maintain the building’s historic character, and Hangar 14 would still be legally protected from demolition. The example they used to justify this decision is Hangar 11, which they sold to a private owner, who is planning to fund renovations and turn it into a mixed-use building with retail and some residential spaces. The city is investing $5 million into that project, with the private owner investing $40 million.
The city’s fund for the maintenance of heritage buildings is depleted and they are facing tough decision in the 2023-2026 capital budget. From City Administration’s point of view, the choice is clear that getting someone else to spend money is preferable to the city spending the money.
City Administration also argued in their presentation that selling Hangar 14 to a private owner is the only way it can be integrated within the Blatchford Development. They also clarified later that part of their decision making is that, by selling it to a private owner, they will then be able to collect property tax on the property, whereas they currently can not as a city asset.
Following their presentation, Alberta Aviation Museum board president Brent Abbott spoke. His presentation highlighted the long history the AAM – and, importantly, the other member organizations – have had with Hangar 14, and the commitments made by the City of Edmonton in the 2018 lease to maintain the building. He spoke about the work done towards organizational sustainability, and how extremely busy we are with projects, with multiple community partnerships and programs in the works or planned for the near future. It also highlighted that we are not just a history museum – we’re an active community where a very dedicated group of adults and seniors can gather, work hard, and give back to their community. From an economic point of view, studies show that for every dollar invested in museums, the local community reaps $4 in benefits, so there economic benefits to non-profit museums.
Following Brent’s talk, David Ridley, the Executive Director of the Edmonton Heritage Council presented against the recommendation, and in support of the Alberta Aviation Museum.
A key quote from his presentation is that “We strongly feel the aviation museum in its current location and in Hangar 14 contributes greatly to that [the importance of heritage experiences as part of belonging and connecting to Edmonton]… that experience for Edmontonians. From our perspective, the Aviation Museum – not withstanding Fort Edmonton Park – is the largest, by staffing, and budget, and programs, of Edmonton’s independent not-for-profit museums.”
His presentation praised the AAM’s work in recent years towards restructuring its organization and its renewed focus on sustainability.
His final point emphasized the commitment made from the City of Edmonton upon the closure of the airport to the importance of the aviation museum and the relationship between the historic Blatchford Field and the new Blatchford development, and the importance of Edmonton’s aviation history and the role of the aviation museum in sharing that story with the community.
Finally, City Councillors were able to ask questions to Brent and Ryan Lee.
Mayor Sohi emphasized from the start, that “there’s no doubt that the Aviation Museum is very important to the city. It’s very significant, in every aspect”
Primarily, they involved how many people visit the museum, and what we are involved with in terms of fundraising and fund development. They asked what partnerships were available with other levels of government, and what other options Administration has explored. This question was deferred to Administration (but all questions to administration are deferred to the July 4th City Council meeting, as the meeting yesterday ran out of time).
Several questions dealt with whether or not there has been interest from the community or philanthropists in coming up with innovative, creative partnership opportunities. Since this is such a recent issue that we are only recently dealing with, we do not have anything like that in the works, but will be exploring all options. One example is the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada in Winnipeg, which was a $47 million project, funded in part by the Federal government ($11.2 million), the provincial government of Manitoba ($8.8 million), and private donations of $20-some million; a large, LARGE portion of which was the Richardson Foundation (i.e. James A Richardson, founder of Canadian Airways).
Overall, the Councillors present expressed strong support for the value of the Alberta Aviation Museum, but did emphasize the difficulties faced by the city, financially.
Next Steps: Because the meeting was running into the end of the day, the questions by City Council to City Administration have been deferred to the City Council meeting on July 4th. This is when the Councillors will be able to ask Administration why none of the other options were explored in the Investment Study, what resources the City has to help the Alberta Aviation Museum and its tenants in the next steps, and what possible timelines might look like. Until the 4th, we are unlikely to have more answers to our questions but remain very actively engaged in this process.
The meeting is scheduled from 9:30 AM to 5 PM in Council Chambers at City Hall. It can also be watched online:
We are making the case that staying in Hangar 14 is the best solution – for us, for the City, and for the Blatchford development. But, realistically, we (the AAM) need to look at all options possible, such as alternate existing locations that could host the Aviation Museum (Hangar 39?), alternate locations where a new building could be constructed (hopefully here at Blatchford), and possible partnerships with the Provincial Government, Ministry of Culture, and Federal Government. We have supportive City Councillors – they are wanting to help and support us, and we have strong support from the Edmonton Heritage Council. No actual decision has been made yet regarding the future of Hangar 14, but we would encourage you to write a letter in support of the Aviation Museum to your local City Councillors, MLAs, and MPs. Emphasize our value to society, value to the city, importance in your lives.
The meeting on July 4 can go several ways: If council votes to receive the report for information, it would support the start of administration’s disposition process. They could also make a motion providing a different direction – which, clearly, is what we want them to do. So I encourage you to write or phone your City Councillors – there is very little time before the Monday meeting, with tomorrow being a holiday.
As this process develops, we are committed to keeping the membership, member groups, and staff informed along the way. We will share the questions and answers to City Administration following the July 4th City Council meeting.
We are taking the matter extremely seriously, and it has our full attention. I share your hurt and disappointment that this news and uncertainty brings. I’ve only been involved since 2014, but I know that many of you have been involved since the very beginning of our Hangar 14 life. I want to make sure that the City knows how much heart and soul has been invested into making an amazing aviation museum – not for us individually, not for our organization – but for the City of Edmonton and our community. We are committed to finding a solution.
Alberta Aviation Museum