Woodward’s development faces space decrease
An innovative arts hub at the Woodward’s development, set to open in September 2009, is in danger of tanking. On June 1, the board of directors of W2 met with City of Vancouver cultural-services staff to prepare the nonprofit for what’s coming June 11.
Staff warned that city council that day will be recommending just 7,800 square feet of space, down from a high of 16,000, according to Magnus Thyvold, W2’s board chair. City staff, he reported, will also suggest axing the café that was to be in the basement of the old Woodward’s building, and the gallery may be cut, among other changes.
“As it gets closer and closer, it’s like the dollars start talking,” Thyvold told the Straight. “This nonprofit space was supposed to have been the developer’s contribution to the community.”
W2 Community Media Arts is a nonprofit umbrella project that will house the Kootenay School of Writing and projects by the Society for Disability Arts, the B.C. Regional Integrated Arts Network, and other institutions. For about five years, the board has worked with the city and Woodward’s to secure a home for a gallery, offices, a performance space, a TV studio, a youth media lab, and other facilities.
Michael Flanigan, the city’s director of real-estate services, told the Straight that the larger space was offered on the condition that W2 meet criteria concerning its capacity to cover operating costs. “What came back was a business plan that would support the 7,800 square feet that the city is recommending,” Flanigan said, adding this is a “significant amount of space”.
He stated that council will determine who operates the café, emphasizing that there is interest from other nonprofit groups in the Downtown Eastside. Thyvold, however, said the café was to be both a revenue generator for W2 and a concrete connection to the community, but now the city plans to send out a request for proposals. As a result, W2 will face increased difficulty in being able to afford annual lease costs of about $70,200 per year.
“We’re wondering now, can we even fulfill the vision for the space?” Thyvold said. “Can it be the resource for the Downtown Eastside we want it to be?”¦The ideal thing would be if we got the 16,000-[square]-foot space that was proposed to us several months ago. Even if we got the full 9,400 [square] feet as was in the original proposal, that would provide us the basis of going forward in a strong way.”