Work underway on new francophone cultural centre in Timmins

Construction is officially underway on a new French cultural centre in Timmins, after its original building caught fire some years ago and was demolished.

The francophone community was devastated when it lost the 50-year-old cultural centre in 2015.

After more than $6 million was raised – and enduring many setbacks -- construction crews have finally broken ground.

"Not only with the pandemic, but then with all the resulting rising costs and things like that,' said Michelle Boileau of the Centre Culturel La Ronde.

"So to finally, actually, see the ground being broken, it's starting to feel real."

It was an emotional moment for Centre Culturel La Ronde, Boileau said, whose members worked tirelessly to get to this point, including securing community donations and government grants, as well as a $750,000 gift from Agnico Eagle topping off fundraising efforts last week.

The local francophone association said memories of the old building are flooding back, along with hope for the future.

"La Ronde was always an important part of the community, not just for cultural, but that's where we meet," said Sylvain Lacroix of the L'Alliance de la Francophone de Timmins.

"That's where we sit down and chat and create programs."

The new facility will be a one-story, 11,000-square-foot facility complete with a dance studio, bar, kitchen, lobby and mezzanine.

Lacroix said it's exciting to see developments in the French community -- a health centre, francophone immigrants and the new centre -- start coming to fruition.

"The future is bright for the Francophone community and for Timmins at large," he said.

Boileau said a bit more works needs to be done since the money raised so far only covers construction costs.

"We do want fundraise a little bit more, to make sure that we're in a comfortable position, in case there are some unforeseen issues, and then, of course, the more we fundraise, the better it can be," she said.

Boileau said the goal is to raise at least another $500,000 to cover furnishings and any extra costs. The hope is to have the building ready by next summer.