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“The land is feasible for the new Cultural Center”

Lisa Phillips showed the positive direction plans are heading in for the proposed new cultural centre construction, which continues through the planning stage. (Marisela Amador, The Eastern Door)

The final presentation on the feasibility land study for the proposed site of the new Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center (KOR) has concluded that the project is viable.

During the presentation on Wednesday night, Reaghan Tarbell, KOR’s executive director said, “in a nutshell it is feasible, and we are going to the community.”

The study also provided KOR with a dollar amount on what the building would cost. Lisa Phillips, interim public program supervisor at KOR, said, “The feasibility study was done to accurately give us a number for what the project itself would cost. Going in we had no idea what it would cost. We were looking at seven to $10 million. We needed to know what the requirements were and the needs and the cost. So the study gave us that, and it’s at $20 million.”    

The funding for the new $20 million cultural center will come from three different sources. Eighty per cent will come from grant contributions from government funding sources, 15 per cent will come from private contributions and charitable donations, and finally, the remaining five per cent will be financed with a financial institution through a loan, according to the financial assessment of the study.    

Since the beginning, the project has had its share of difficulties, from budget cuts to protests relating to issues with the proposed land site SLS 11, which is next to the Kahnawake Survival School.

However, after a positive community vote last summer, which highlighted majority support to continue the feasibility study and move forward with the project, KOR is ready to pass to the next phase of the project.

“Right now Trina C. Diabo – a technician with the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) – and I are busy working on the funding proposal and applications to get the capital cost for the building, and then after that we have to work on tenders and putting out calls for the architecture component,” said Phillips. “We are being hopeful.”

The funding phase of the project is contingent on the community’s continual support. A vote will be held on January 26 and 29 to establish if the project will move forward. “The vote will help gauge the community’s support. We are hoping for a positive outcome,” Phillips said.

The new cultural center would be a community building managed by the MCK, a point of contention for many in the community. During the presentation, Phillips stressed that although MCK would manage the building, KOR, along with Turtle Island Theater, would remain autonomous in their operations and decision-making.

Having MCK manage the building will also help reduce maintenance costs for KOR. “Repairs will not be on us. The maintenance will be MCK. They will be responsible for all those things,” Phillips said.

The MCK’s contribution will also include legal, financial and political expertise as well as the administration of the building, according to the feasibility study report. However, the building will remain community-owned and will be registered in the name of the Mohawks of Kahnawake.    

The feasibility study report contained environmental, geotechnical and archaeological assessments as well as a financial analysis of the SLS 11 site. Phillips said that after the conflict that transpired last June, the KOR board decided to delve deeper into the environmental aspect of the assessment than initially planned.

“We have gone above and beyond in terms of the due diligence,” said Phillips. “We want the project to have the least archeological and environmental footprint possible. We believe in this project even though it has come at a great cost. This project is needed, and it is for the community.”

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