Time ticking on media-arts centre at Woodward's project

Final plans for W2, a 14,395-square-foot media-arts centre at the Woodward’s project championed by Gallery Gachet executive director Irwin Oostindie, are in the city’s hands.

But, according to Oostindie, city council must approve them before the November 15 civic election if he is to raise $2.6 million for finishing and operating costs for the facility to open by September 2009.

“They’ve pushed us back with a whole bunch of more questions,” Oostindie said, referring to the W2 report submitted September 2. “They want a lot of detail from us, and we’re a bit hamstrung because we’re not able to embark on a fundraising campaign and identify our funders, because we’re still waiting for city-council approval.”

A proposal for W2, initially called the Centre for Creative Technology and Community Arts, was first submitted to the city in 2006, in response to a request for proposals from nonprofit groups for space in Woodward’s.

At the time it was envisioned as a 9,200-square-foot facility, alongside a Downtown Eastside neighbourhood house, a woodworking shop, and an AIDS Vancouver office. Since then the neighbourhood house and woodworking shop proposals have fallen by the wayside, and W2 has expanded its footprint. That has raised more bureaucratic hurdles to clear, admitted Oostindie.

“We are committed to building a 14,395-square-foot place and they [city staff] are saying, ”˜No, you’ve only been approved for 9,200 square feet,’ ” he said. “We were going to be sharing space with the neighbourhood house.”¦We are now providing some amenity spaces that the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood can use, much like the Roundhouse provides unprogrammed amenity space. We’re not willing to run an arts centre that does not have those kinds of soft spaces for residents to gather.”

W2’s core members include Gallery Gachet, IMAGeNation, Redwire magazine, Chakras/teaspace Society, the Society for Disability Arts and Culture, and the Vancouver Community Network. Plans for the three-storey space include a café, gallery space, digital-equipment co-op, youth media lab, performance space, and disability arts studio.

Jacquie Gijssen, senior cultural planner with the city, said she can’t predict when the W2 proposal will go to council but she hopes it will happen before the new year. “We are obviously trying to complete our review and assessment as soon as possible,” she said. “Then we have to make a staff recommendation, and then it has to go to a steering committee, and then it has to go to council.”¦All of those steps take a bit of time.”