There has been a breakthrough in efforts to build a downtown performing arts centre with two competing proposals being merged into a single cooperative concept.

Until now competing visions for a performing arts centre - one by Orchestra London and one by The Grand Theatre - had been vying for city council's approval. 

Ron Koudys, chair of The Grand Theatre, says “We've been looking at ways of collaboration and sharing all along and so I think we're getting pretty close to presenting something to the community.”

While it is still being formulated, discussions centre on building a new community arts centre on the site of Centennial Hall and its parking lot, while at the same time expanding The Grand Theatre.

The end goal has been dubbed an entertainment district made up of commercial, residential and performance space.

The new centre may be managed by Global Spectrum - the operators of Budweiser Gardens.

Koudys says “It is not just an investment in arts, it’s an investment in our downtown that could generate new housing opportunities, new office and retail opportunities downtown.”

There is word public input at a pair of information nights in September prompted the shift from a competitive process to a collaborative one.

City hall has earmarked up to $10 million for a downtown arts project, but London Mayor Joe Fontana has been pressing for a unified vision.

“Ii think this is the last opportunity and I think the only way it’s going to get done is for both parties to come together.”

The mayor also supports a public-private partnership that would be similar to the financing proposed by the city's new medical innovation network.

That includes matching an investment from city hall with money from local partners to leverage larger sums from the upper levels of government.

Koudys says “Global Spectrum has expressed interest definitely; some of the big builders have expressed very strong interest. So I think everybody is pulling in the same direction.”

The chair of Orchestra London, Joe O'Neil echoes The Grand Theatre’s enthusiasm and optimism.

More details on the combined plan are expected to be released in the coming weeks.