City reserves land for Vancouver Art Gallery move if gallery clears some hurdles
Staff at the City of Vancouver have released a report that gives cautious approval to the Vancouver Art Gallery to move forward with a proposal to relocate to 688 Cambie Street (formerly 150 Dunsmuir).
The report, which goes before council January 20, gives the VAG two years to deliver a viable plan for building a new gallery on the former bus depot land behind the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. And despite the gallery’s publicly stated position that it needs the entire block, city staff are recommending that only two acres be reserved for cultural use, with the remainder being considered for office use.
In order to secure the site, the VAG is being asked to jump through a number of hoops. Staff want the gallery to conduct a comprehensive review of the options considered for its expansion, confirming 688 Cambie as the best option. The VAG is also being asked to present a business case that takes into account the $40 million encumbrance on the land which would have to be repaid to the city and provide evidence of its ability to fundraise the required capital and operating costs of a the new space.
The VAG is also requested to develop an inclusive space and programming strategy that includes new partnerships and expanded community engagement at the proposed new site, and demonstrate broad support from the cultural community and the public for the new gallery. In addition, the VAG is being asked to conduct a review of its governance structure which clarifies city representation in light of the city assets under the its care.
Staff are to examine development options that include a public plaza fronting on Georgia Street which would provide continuity between the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza and 688 Cambie.
Proposed new uses for 750 Hornby Street, the current VAG site, are to be explored through community consultation. The Museum of Vancouver has already been quite vocal about its interest in moving to the site, with its CEO Nancy Noble telling the Straight in an interview last month: “We’re interested in moving into the VAG’s space, and city council certainly knows it.”
The staff report also holds off on giving the VAG the city’s exclusive backing, noting that the Vancouver Concert Hall and Theatre Society has expressed interest in the site, and that its proposal continue to be a part of the overall discussions to “better understand the opportunities and challenges”. Breathing life back into the long-lived VCHT plan (which was originally proposed and approved by the city in 1991 as the Coal Harbour Arts Complex) the report says staff will continue to work with the VCHTC to determine its viability, and to explore other options for the development of a music complex containing a concert hall and 450-seat theatre.