Church vies to take over Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts

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      An evangelical church appears to be negotiating to take over the storied Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, once Livent's mega-musical headquarters in Vancouver and lately a venue for numerous concerts and comedy shows.

      On its website, Westside Church pastor Norman Funk wrote: "we are officially (and publicly), announcing that Westside has been investigating, endeavoring, pursuing—in conjunction and partnership with those not officially a part of our ministry yet certainly friends of the ministry—the exclusive rights and usage of the Centre for the Performing Arts (formerly: Ford Centre) in downtown Vancouver as the new home for Westside Church."

      He also wrote: “With a Purchase Sales Agreement in hand we now move immediately into a 75 day due diligence period which allows us to get into the facility and … evaluate whether or not finalizing the purchase of the building is feasible, prudent and God-directed."

      On April 25, Funk Tweeted: “I have had 7 meetings this week alone re: the Centre, with all of them grace filled and Jesus centred. #grace #777”. On May 1, he Tweeted: “Thanks for your prayers for my meeting yesterday. Today received a $300,000 commitment to the Centre project!”

      The church has apparently raised one-third of its costs from donors and hopes, with the agreement of the congregation, to start "Westside at the Centre" fully operating by fall.

      The City of Vancouver has not made anyone available to be interviewed.

      The Centre is in the central business district and is zoned for nonresidential uses. Churches are designated as institutional uses, which are permitted in this area. An application must be made to the city for a change of use, such as converting the building into a house of worship.

      Former city planning director Brent Toderian told the Straight by phone that the Centre is on the edge of an emerging cultural district.

      "I'd say the loss of a cultural institution, a performing-arts institution, is just that, a loss," Toderian said. "How much the city can do to prevent such losses, though, is always a question because they have to be economically viable."

      The Centre, designed by Moshe Safdie (who also created the Vancouver Public Library that sits across the street) was built by Live Entertainment of Canada Inc. (Livent) in 1995 at a cost of about $27 million and opened with much fanfare with Show Boat. But it shut down three years later amid Livent's financial crisis. Four Brothers Entertainment, under Colorado-based Dennis Law, bought the facility in 2001 for $7.8 million. Law set out to rejuvenate theatre here with a program that encompassed everything from his own Chinese-themed "action musical", Terra Cotta Warriors, to the Broadway warhorse 42nd Street  with limited success.

      "Koreans don't see Chinese plays, Chinese don't see Japanese plays, Japanese don't see Indian plays, and Caucasians don't see Chinese plays," Law told the Straight in a phone interview at the time. "Vancouver is a difficult place to run arts and culture because of its segmented population." Law once told the Straight that if attendance didn't increase at his 1,849-seat theatre, it could be turned into condos or even a casino.

      Lately the Centre has been rented out to everything from concerts to comedians to the Goh Ballet's Nutcracker each Christmas.

      Toderian, principal of Toderian urbanWORKS, noted that if Vancouverites want to have a cultural city, they will have to support arts and culture.

      "There's only so much government can or should do," he said. "But I definitely see it as a disappointment, given the various cultural and performing institutions we've lost around the city—at the same time as we're trying to build up a culture district and increase the net amount of culture in our downtown."

      He pointed to plans for a new Vancouver Art Gallery just down the street, the CBC, the Vancouver Public Library central branch, and refurbished Queen Elizabeth Theatre as important parts of the cultural district. That's in addition to nearby B.C. Place and Rogers Arena.

      Toderian emphasized that some might consider a church a cultural facility. And other downtown churches, such as Christ Church Cathedral, add to the city's cultural life. But if a church moves into the Centre, Toderian said a key question would be how often events would be held at that location—and whether it would add to the vitality of the area.

      Diane Heal, the centre’s vice president of operations, declined to comment to the Straight. Heal referred the Straight to Michael Law, with Global Pacific Properties Inc. A phone message to Law was not returned.

      With notes from Stephen Thomson and Janet Smith.




      May 10, 2013 at 4:15pm

      "pastor Norman...<i>Pastor</i>" ?

      "Pastor Pastor, good morning." . Well, it had to happen eventually.

      Sergeant Sargent. Officer Officer. Every now and then.


      May 10, 2013 at 4:23pm

      1)events centres rely on tourist industry as much as local support. Vancouver IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE CITY IN NORTH AMERICA. add it up

      2) cost of living in Vancouver for people working in the arts is not proportionate to what they get paid.

      anybody who wants to invest in a profitable arts district/business in Vancouver should be clever enough to work out the grants/investments/subsidy value for long term gain for centres like Performing Arts Vancouver.
      -Emily Carr
      -Ministry of Education
      -Ministry of Tourism
      -subsidised housing for artists; transit subsidies etc.

      I can think of numerous ways to reduce operating costs that can be put into promotion and financial growth especially with a city full of money wise people like Vancouver it surpises me that DestinationEvangelicalHoliday is preferable than diversity and creativity...
      How does an ExtremistReligious organization provide financial benefit to the community as a whole (downtown); surrounding business will definitely not fit with that 'theme'...

      ...people don't go to the Big City to go to church. not ones that SPEND a lot. Just Sayin :)

      Please No.

      May 10, 2013 at 5:02pm


      David S.

      May 10, 2013 at 5:02pm

      I really hope this doesn't go through, Vancouver is a secular city that doesn't have a need for this, and if it does they better damn well pay taxes like the rest of us.


      May 10, 2013 at 5:07pm

      In a city as irreligious and multicultural as Vancouver, an Evangelical Church is the last thing the downtown core needs. At best, the majority passers-by chuckle at, shrug off, and get into heated arguments with anyone handing out religious pamphlets and watch towers in front of SkyTrain stations, the art gallery, the abortion clinic on Broadway, and other local hubs. A right wing church is a slap in the face to to a leftist free-thinking educate-yourself public library across the street. Try and invest in more arts and culture than let what little Vancouver has left go to the dogs. We are a city of glass, mountains, beaches, Starbucks, international students, hipsters, hippies, and yoga, - I just don't see room for or need for a church that will try and scream at the masses that we're all going to hell.


      May 10, 2013 at 5:18pm



      May 10, 2013 at 5:33pm

      "But if a church moves into the Centre, Toderian said a key question would be how often events would be held at that location"

      I'll go out on a limb here and suggest...every Sunday?

      Real tragedy if a seldom-used over scaled 'art' center brings a 1000 people into the downtown core every Sunday. Perish the thought.

      To paraphrase the tuna commercial from yesteryear.
      "Sorry art hipsters...but the center is not looking for culture with good taste but rather culture that tastes good."


      May 10, 2013 at 5:51pm

      I don't know if downtown Vancouver needs another church. It is a sad sad state of affairs for the arts community that this great facility will not be available in the future and even sadder that the government and the city for that matter care so little about arts and culture to not keep it open for the purpose it was built.


      May 10, 2013 at 6:25pm

      A new downtown church will be a great addition and is sorely needed to inject some clear right-thinking to a lost & suffering loony left city.


      May 10, 2013 at 6:58pm