Mount Pleasant arts centre on shaky ground
A battle over daycare facilities at the old Mount Pleasant Community Centre could make or break plans to convert the centre into an arts hub. The idea was first floated in March of last year by then park-board commissioner Spencer Herbert. The community centre is scheduled to move into a new facility at 1 Kingsway in September, after which the old facility (at 16th Avenue and Ontario Street) is to be demolished. A before- and after-school program for students at Simon Fraser Elementary School is currently housed in the building, and will be moved to a purpose-built modular unit to be installed on the school grounds late this year or early in 2010, according to Vision Vancouver park-board chair Raj Hundal.
Arts groups had hoped that the daycare centre would remain at the old community centre until the new module is ready, giving them time to come up with a proposal for the old building, but the demolition date has remained fixed for this September.
“If we get permission to keep the daycare there temporarily, then getting an arts group in there partly alleviates our cost of operating the building, but also gives us maybe a year,” explained Amy Clausen, chair of the Mount Pleasant Community Centre Association’s arts committee. “If we had a lot of time and a lot of consultation and some of those luxuries, I feel like we could lead the charge in kind of developing that vision with the City of Vancouver with cultural planning, with the parks board, and come up with a business plan for keeping that building operational [as an arts centre].”¦Except that now we’re dealing with very, very short time lines.”
Judi Piggott, a local consultant working with arts groups, has been leading an ad hoc group interested in converting the facility into an arts centre. “What we were told was as long as the daycare centre needed a home, the park board would keep the building open.”¦But apparently, September there won’t be a daycare,” she said.
Vision Vancouver park-board commissioner Aaron Jasper's emergency motion asking for the daycare to remain open until it has a new permanent home goes before the park board on March 23.
“The previous board made a decision to basically demolish Mount Pleasant Community Centre,” Hundal explained. “What we’re thinking of doing at the moment is looking at options of saving the community centre with the desire to keep some portion of it to allow for the daycare.”
As for converting the building into an arts centre, Hundal was less optimistic. “There’ll be money attached to keeping it open. That’s why I don’t want to make any decisions in regards to arts and culture without talking to them [arts groups], looking at their proposals,” he said. “If you’re asking me, in the existing structure that we have, can we have something there for the long term? I would say no. It’s a safety issue.”