City council has voted unanimously in favour of leasing the Larwill Park site for a new, purpose-built Vancouver Art Gallery.
In a vote followed by applause at Vancouver City Hall today (April 24), council supported a staff report recommending a 99-year lease for the 1.8-acre site, located at Cambie and Georgia streets.
The lease agreement for the city-owned site will be conditional on the Vancouver Art Gallery securing $100 million in funding from the federal government and $50 million from the provincial government before April 30, 2015. An expanded facility at the downtown site will cost an estimated $300 to $350 million, according to the staff report.
Kathleen Bartels, the director of the Vancouver Art Gallery, called the support from city council “a huge step forward” for the gallery toward achieving its fundraising goals.
“I think we have tremendous support behind us from the community, from council, from people across the country, and I think once we start having that groundswell of support being obvious across the country, I think other levels of government will come forward,” she told reporters.
Mayor Gregor Robertson described Vancouver as “coming of age as a creative power house".
“In every respect on the arts scene, we are well-deserving of elevating to a purpose-built art gallery that brings all of this together and enables us to celebrate and to benefit from significant economic impact that a new gallery will have,” he said.
Today's vote came after council heard from 16 speakers, all of whom spoke in support of a new, expanded art gallery.
Paul Vallee, the executive vice-president of Tourism Vancouver, told council he believes a new art gallery could help to draw visitors to the city year-round.
“Vancouver is certainly well known as a place that has a terrific quality of life in a spectacular setting with welcoming residents,” he said. “But we’re not so well known as a cultural destination, despite our world-class art. We believe that a modern, purpose-built expanded gallery will enhance our cultural reputation.”
Haida artist James Hart indicated he supports expanding the art gallery because he can see the facility "bulging at the seams", while artist and curator Hank Bull said the decision "ushers us into a new era".
"It's our time now to build this city through investment in its creativity," said Bull. "It’s time to make the creative city happen."
Susan Sirovyak, the registrar of collections at the VAG, noted the gallery currently has more than 10,000 works in its collection.
"This number really doesn’t give justice to the immensity and the complexity and all of the parts that comprise the collection," she told councillors.
"I'm one of the rare group of individuals who gets to see first-hand the breadth and scope of the permanent collection," she added. "But I'd gladly trade this exclusively for a gallery that will bring this remarkable collection out of the basement and into the world."
The Vancouver Art Gallery's plan for a new purpose-built location at 688 Cambie Street includes an expansion of exhibition space to 86,500 square feet, from 40,448 square feet at its current site. The VAG also intends to incorporate amenities such as multi-use classrooms and studios, a 300-seat auditorium, and a resource and learning centre.