City council in Cambridge unanimously approved the final step in the establishment of a contentious new theatre on Monday.

Construction of the $15-million, 500-seat venue began in August along the banks of the Grand River in the Galt area, but no decision had been made about how it would be run.

Now the city has approved a 50-year lease and Drayton Entertainment can begin its move into the venue, which is expected to be completed by the late summer or early fall of 2012.

The city will cover the major maintenance costs of the facility, while the non-profit Drayton Entertainment will deal with the day-to-day expenses.

Jim King, chief administrator for the City of Cambridge, says "Drayton runs the operation aspects; there is no taxpayer money towards operating costs."

The city is already contributing $6 million towards the cost of building the Cambridge Performing Arts Centre and the venue will be taxpayer-owned.

The partnership with Drayton is expected to save the city between $200,000 and $300,000 annually.

But King acknowledges more than just the up-front investment will be needed as time goes on, "Any building, of course, over time ages and requires conservation, and the city can plan for that."

The theatre's construction has been controversial. When the plans were unveiled in March 2011, many residents let it be known they felt the money would be better spent elsewhere.

At the time, Cambridge resident Gord Hobbs said "We are trying to mobilize the citizens of Cambridge to communicate directly with their councillors…to ask them to consider stepping back from the project."

The city decided to move forward, and that has businesses near the theatre's location also going ahead with preparations for more customers.

At Barnacle Bill's Seafood Restaurant, a small fish and chips shop, they are doubling the seating capacity in anticipation of a bustling downtown core.

Owner Colleen Boland says "They roll up, literally, roll up the streets here at night so hopefully this will add and bring more people downtown."

Along with other local business, they hope the trickle down effect from the arts community will be enough to boost business.

Meanwhile the city hopes its partnership with Drayton Entertainment will help fill the seats of the theatre.