Cobourg Cultural Community Lobbies for Action on Brookside

A group of 14 of Cobourg’s Community organizations have joined together to ask MPP David Piccini to support re-development of Brookside and Strathmore House into multi-purpose spaces that would meet the growing needs of Cobourg’s Cultural organizations.  They have jointly submitted a letter that describes their ideas and needs and although no numbers were provided, they say that some groups are currently paying over $1,000/month for storage and rehearsal space that is not suitable to their needs. Their letter concludes: “With Strathmore House at the centre, we believe the repurposing of Brookside Youth Centre could become a vibrant cultural hub that inspires collaboration, facilitates a platform for cross sector partnerships and stimulates multi-generational learning opportunities for members, Cobourg residents and guests.” A copy is provided in the links below.

Groups involved

  • Northumberland Orchestra & Choir  
  • Northumberland Players
  • VOS (Victoria Opera Society)
  • Oriana Singers of Northumberland
  • Film Access Northumberland
  • Cobourg Museum Foundation
  • Cobourg Art Club
  • Pine Ridge Art Association
  • Northumberland Hills Stitchery Guild
  • Northumberland Creates
  • Sounds of the Next Generation (SONG)
  • Architectural Conservancy Ontario – Cobourg & East Northumberland
  • Art Gallery of Northumberland
  • Marie Dressler Foundation
  • Also Denny Manchee, Cobourg resident and Jane’s Walk Organizer, and Carol McCann, Chair of Downtown Coalition Advisory Committee (2015 – 2018)

For names, an indication of the number of people represented and more detail see full letter in link below.

Needs Highlighted

The following key elements were highlighted as a need for our community:

  • Additional rehearsal space
  • Flex studio space
  • Flex office space and meeting rooms
  • Recording space
  • Additional storage space for props/set pieces/costumes
  • Additional exhibit space
  • Additional film space/space to host a film festival and larger viewings
  • Additional performance centre (Smaller or larger than the Concert Hall at Victoria Hall that would provide additional options and variation for performances)
  • Larger, multi-use space
  • Lesson space for educational programming
  • Wood shop and working lab to make sets

Trade Schools

Strathmore House could also be used for Trade Schools; for example:

  • Hospitality/Food & Beverage School that would include a commercial kitchen for local residents and tourists to enjoy. The property surrounding the home could be turned into a community garden where students grow the produce used in the kitchen.
  • Heritage Conservation and Management
  • Arts Campus with lecture halls and adjoining performing arts centre for future Canadian playwrights and script writers
  • Branch of OCAD

Cultural Plan (2019)

Their ideas are supported by the Cultural plan

  • Invest in cultural facilities as anchors for cultural development in Cobourg (1.4)
  • Support the cultural sector with funding, grant and training opportunities (4.1)
  • Foster opportunities for cultural expression and experiences for Cobourg’s youth (6.1)

Outgrowing spaces

The letter says that:

A number of our local cultural groups have outgrown their current rentals, struggle to find appropriate rehearsal space or seek the opportunity to expand their organizations. Some groups are currently paying over $1,000/month for storage and rehearsal space that is not suitable to their needs. Therefore, would greatly appreciate a joint venture centre they could rent monthly but would also provide flex space for meetings, showcases or other events.

A copy of this letter was also sent to Councillors Bureau and Beatty.  It would be surprising if all the ideas proposed by this group (and others) were ignored by Council.  See also letters to the editor.


Addendum – 5 May 2021

Here is another proposal as submitted (in February) to MPP David Piccini by Paula and Tom Hacking.

Proposal “Have Your Say” Re Brookside Cobourg Ontario

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9 May 2021 3:21 pm

A post secondary institution with a residence building for students. Skills trades? Maybe some students will stay and contribute to the tax base,start new business etc. We need some youth coming into this Town instead of them all moving away after high school.

5 May 2021 6:49 pm

RE: May 5th-Addendum….
The proposal submitted by Paula & Tom Hacking is so much more compelling than the collective of artisans because it specifically addresses a much more desperate need by our community. We remain the ONLY community along the 401 between Ottawa and Windsor that does not have a College or University. By closing Brookside, the Province eliminated 100 living wage jobs locally and rather than holding consultations to nowhere—our MPP–the Parlimentary Secretary for Colleges and Universities should be conducting another one of his ribbon cutting ceremonies at the new Brookside ‘campus’.
Lets get the 1,000 students back that we had here at Fleming a short decade ago…
Lets give our high school, graduates a local skills training alternative…
Lets give companies like Weston a reason to be here….
Lets train PSW’s….lets provide the workforce of tomorrow…&.lets attract some private capital…

Reply to  Dunkirk
9 May 2021 3:15 pm

And hopefully the students will stay and work,create jobs,raise familiies etc.

Bill Thompson
Reply to  Informed
10 May 2021 4:21 pm

How is the former high school CDC West working out with students re becoming post graduation workforce members or is it too early yet?
Very little public information about it since it started up.

5 May 2021 10:42 am

All that is missing is a sound business plan outlining how these groups would purchase the property and fund its operation.

Or is this just a request by members of these groups for taxpayer funding of their hobbies?

Reply to  Jeffy
5 May 2021 10:51 am

Let’s just see if this get’s rolling. I’ll bet a big fundraising project would be quite successful with all these groups behind it. When you contrast the towns expense for relatively few sail boats, this is well within reason and could reach a much greater population. Never hurts to dream a little.

Reply to  Doug
5 May 2021 11:53 am

The marina is a self sustaining business unit of the Town and the boaters pay for the facilities and services provided. Same for the campground (VPC). No taxpayer money needed for either facility
As noted elsewhere, the CCC’s public fundraising (about $4M) was a huge failure and the Town had to take out a mortgage to fund the shortfall. Debt service is about $275K per year for the next 10 years or so.

Reply to  Bryan
5 May 2021 12:39 pm

Thank you for reminding us of this appalling situation.
Important details such as this should not be allowed to stay buried and forgotten by those of us who have to finance the long-term consequences of such boondoggles.

Reply to  Bryan
5 May 2021 12:52 pm

Could I suggest that the boaters are at least partly dependent on all the break walls and seem to get preferential use of the Yacht Club building which I believe is town owned. Does seem quite a privileged use of town facilities. Feel free to correct me if my hearsay facts are wrong.
I love the look of our harbour in front of the town but it is very expensive to maintain. If the town can support the harbour then perhaps the CCC and Brookside, etc. all deserve our support as well.

Reply to  Doug
5 May 2021 1:29 pm

It is very likely that the Town’s harbour expenses would continue regardless of the existence of the marina. Further, the marina (therefore the boaters) pay for some harbour expenses such as dredging.
In addition, for a number of years, the marina also paid $25K per year to fix the East Pier sinkholes. Several years ago at Council, Parks Dir Hustwick indicated that over several years, about $500K of “non-marina” (Town) expenses had been paid by the marina.

In regards to the Yacht Club building, the building was originally built by the CYC on Town land and transferred (sold?) to the Town at some point. The CYC pays the Town rent (nominal) and property taxes as well as paying for the repairs and upkeep of the building. Not exactly the “free ride” you seemed to be suggesting.

As noted in other comments, the CCC taxpayer subsidy is in excess of $1M per year

Brookside, if Town owned, would likely be another taxpayer money pit.

Reply to  Bryan
5 May 2021 5:15 pm

Doug, I can vouch for Bryan’s information regarding the marina, CYC and overcharges in excess of $500K. The marina has never cost a Cobourg tax payer a dollar. The fact that after all this time and discussion people repeat misinformation about its financial condition is hard to understand. In that vein, I would support the Town acquiring Brookside if the various Clubs and other organizations would sign letters of commitment, along with appropriate financial gaurantees to make the Town taxpayers whole in the event of any shortfalls. If sailors and boaters get to pay full freight it is only fair others do as well. No such thing as a free lunch.

Reply to  Jeffy
6 May 2021 7:20 am

Its time these sort of Clubs and Groups Really had some Skin in the Game
enough social activities at Tax Payers expense .
Why don’t these Private Interest members groups dip into their own pockets
and contribute . The Capital Theater in Port Hope was resurrected on contributions and private money and still is today . For something to be a success you truly need to have a personal vested interest and something to loose if you fail .

Glenn Bailey
5 May 2021 9:56 am

One of the first groups to lend it’s name to this great idea has been left off the list for some reason. The Northumberland New Ventures Band would agree to pay rent to this proposed facility for it’s concerts. Remember, all of these performing arts groups would be paying customers.

5 May 2021 9:25 am

If these groups and associations are so hot on Cobourg taking ownership of “Brookside” how about they (their registered members) fund 100% of all costs of acquisition and 100% of all future yearly operating costs including renovations and capital costs. Why should the balance of Cobourg taxpayers be on the “hook” for another big expense item for the town

Reply to  cornbread
5 May 2021 12:41 pm

 “…taxpayer funding of their hobbies” as one other comment noted here.

Last edited 2 years ago by JimT
Wally Keeler
Reply to  JimT
5 May 2021 1:06 pm

‘The Hobby Lobby’

Reply to  cornbread
6 May 2021 9:00 pm

I enjoy getting all the thumbs down…someone has to speak up for the regular taxpayers in our town. If I was a younger man, I would run for office or mayor and try to put this town on a more business like format.

5 May 2021 9:13 am

While all these great groups are at it let’s get the walkers involved! Brookside backs onto the rail lines that run across our town. On the other side of these rail lines at this point is a fine walking path that connects the CCC (Community Center) grounds to Brook road. North of that walking path are acres of designated lands that can not be used for housing. These are wet lands that follow the Brookside Creek at least as far north as Elgin St. And beyond? A network of walking trails could all be linked together and meet back at the Brookside/Strathmore House site. This would be such an excellent and safe way for hundreds of school kids to walk to school. A safe beautiful place for everyone to walk. Cross King St from Brookside and you are at Cobourg Collegiate HS and a side opening from Brookside puts you right at C.R. Gummow Public School’s front door. It would not take much to add new links to this path network as Cobourg expands to the north and east. What a wonderful opportunity that has all arrived with perfect timing. Currently the only way for students and other walkers to navigate this whole residential area is by walking D’Arcy St which is more like an automobile raceway than a walkway. A sometimes narrow sidewalk only skirts the side to the West that has NO housing! Several pedestrian fatalities have occurred along D’Arcy St. in recent years. It is hard to imagine what the traffic will be like on Brook Road as that area is developed. Another raceway, I suspect! A linked pathway would create a very safe walking path for everyone. Cobourg could even develop a new promotional slogan; “Come and Walk the Path.”The developers new homes would sell like… Read more »

Mrs. J.
5 May 2021 9:07 am

Oh my goodness! This WISH LIST letter to council etc. is yet another dejà vu request by so many cultural arts groups here in Cobourg. This request brings back excited anticipation for me and my musical affiliation groups (actually not included in this current group of requesters) when we attended a “PLANNING” meeting for the purposes of the soon-to-be-built Cobourg Community Centre (CCC). Besides being shown a model of what the CCC would look like, we (i.e. representatives of LOTS of Cobourg’s arts/cultural/sports groups) were told that there would be “various sized rooms” (some with floor to ceiling mirrors to enable us to perfect our performance techniques, with amazing acoustic properties) where lots of Cobourg’s cultural groups could hold practices, store their equipment AND ALSO be able to use areas of the CCC for various sizes of audiences for performances …. an intimate setting, a medium sized, as well as a large-scale auditorium area, and even a performance stage “in-the-round” in which all of our various cultural needs could be employed.
DID WE GET “ANY” OF IT? OF COURSE NOT!!! Just a load of promises that ALL were thwarted, except for the largely vocal sports’ enthusiasts! Not one, but TWO ice rinks! Geeeez!
These wishes have been expressed in the past for re-purposing The Park theatre, the former Cobourg West high-school, the Memorial Arena, part of the old Kraft etc., etc.
This whole exercise has certainly not been their/our first rodeo/request!!!!!

Last edited 2 years ago by Mrs. J.
Reply to  Mrs. J.
5 May 2021 11:40 am

Mrs. J:

If there is such a demand for performance space why are other Town venues empty?

CCC Rink: capacity 2,000
Concert Hall at Victoria Hall: capacity 150-300
Columbus Centre: capacity 300+ (?)
Lions Centre: capacity 600+
CCC Cameco Room
CCC Rotary Sports & Performance Hall
CCC Spoolon Room
CCC Tournament Room
Church Halls…several

5 May 2021 9:05 am

It would be a shame to lose this wonderful historical site to condo/houses. Sounds like a great idea if these groups can work together for space use and scheduling. And any renovation/modification costs and ongoing expenses. Who would be the landlord – Parks and Rec.
But that said, everything could be worked out if Cobourg could get the property. We should all remember what was going to happen to Victoria Hall until determined parties move to save it.

Reply to  CobourgLin
5 May 2021 9:33 am

You wrote “Who would be the landlord – Parks and Rec.”
Are you proposing another CCC style $1M sinkhole for Cobourg taxpayer’s money?
It is good to see numerous “arts” groups interested in a “Brookside” project but I’m waiting for a “champion” to come forward. Someone to head up and organize the project, fight for it and assume responsibility. Public fundraising would be a key part of this.
The Town can not be involved in the purchase, management or operation of the facility, otherwise another CCC sinkhole is the likely result. Keep in mind that Cobourg’s portion of the CCC cost was to have been from public fundraising. This failed in a big way and the Town had to take out a mortgage which runs until 2032 or so. The debt service is about $275K per year.

We need to learn from past mistakes so as not to repeat them.

Ben Burd has also provided a similar cautionary example

Last edited 2 years ago by Bryan
Reply to  Bryan
5 May 2021 10:10 am

Inflation and higher interest rates are about to surface in North America…so probably there goes the $275,000 debt service per year, as I doubt the “Town” got a fixed rate mortgage for the duration of the loan.

Reply to  cornbread
5 May 2021 1:34 pm


The mortgage term is 20 years: May 2013 to May 2033. The principal was $4M and the interest rate fixed at 3.35% for the 20 years.

Reply to  Bryan
5 May 2021 2:15 pm

Thanks for the info

4 May 2021 1:38 pm

This enlightened coalition of hobbyists sound like they have some great self-actualization ideas for the Cobourg Memorial Arena.

ben burd
Reply to  Dunkirk
4 May 2021 3:49 pm

“Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it” This is deja-vu from the attempt to convert the former Central School – Thomas Gilbard to a cultural centre. I wish them more luck than those who tried some years ago!

George Taylor
Reply to  ben burd
5 May 2021 8:21 am

it appears there is a lot of Groups involved?Hope it works out!

Reply to  ben burd
5 May 2021 10:18 am

The school, as I remember, was sold out from under the noses of the then cultural group by some back room dealings. Ben’s note is a good warning to the current group to stay engaged and front and centre on the issue. John’s Post was an excellent summary of the many possibilities. The naysayers are always going to be a Greek chorus wailing away.

Reply to  ben burd
5 May 2021 4:51 pm

OMG You’re becoming popular in your old age. Should we be worried?