Vancouver city council approves the Arts Club, Bard on the Beach as tenants for new arts centre

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      City council has voted in favour of leasing a new facility in Southeast False Creek to Vancouver’s two largest theatre companies for a performing arts production centre.

      Councillors unanimously supported staff recommendations today (November 5) that will see Bard on the Beach and the Arts Club coordinate as tenants in a "theatrical hub" slated for the first and second levels of two condo towers at 162 West 1st Avenue.

      Up to $7 million in capital funding was also approved for the complex. The funding is expected to help leverage another $5.8 million in support from senior levels of government and private donors in order to turn what is now a concrete shell into a facility that will include a 250-seat theatre, four rehearsal halls, costume and props shops, and offices.

      “I’m thrilled with getting past this point,” Howard Jang, the executive director of the Arts Club, said in an interview following the vote.

      “We have a journey ahead of us, to get the support of our community behind us in a fundraising campaign, and other levels of government, so that’s the next step in this journey, but we’re fairly confident.”

      The new complex was originally intended to be leased to the now-defunct Playhouse Theatre Company. City council approved the space as a community amenity contribution from the Wall Financial Corporation as part of a major rezoning in 2006.

      During the summer of 2012, an open application process was launched for the cultural space, which is expected to be transferred to the city this month. As part of the staff recommendations for the facility, council has approved two separate leases with the Arts Club and Bard on the Beach for a term of 60 years and a “nominal rent” of $10.

      “Although we’re sorry that the Playhouse of course is no longer with us, it is wonderful to see the Arts Club and Bard on the Beach being able to be the beneficiary, and therefore the whole city the beneficiary,” Non-Partisan Association councillor Elizabeth Ball told council.

      She called the amount of revenue that the two theatre companies generate “truly remarkable”.

      “I think that the Arts Club and Bard on the Beach are unique in Canada, in that they are both commercial and artistic successes in many ways,” she told council.

      Vision Vancouver councillor Heather Deal said the city needed “really robust, stable organizations” to make the cultural amenity work.

      Thank you to these organizations for being the ones that could step to the plate and provide us with that certainty and stability that means that we can ensure that this will be an amenity that not only will allow your organizations to save money and thrive, but in fact to provide a huge service for theatre across the city and in fact the region,” she told representatives of the theatre companies at the council meeting.

      As part of the plan for the False Creek facility, the theatre, rehearsal halls and lobby will also be made available for rentals to performing arts groups.

      “I think there’s a lot of time available for the community to come and use it, and so we’ve been talking to the community and said tell us what your needs are so that we can start planning to make sure that it can be available for you,” said Jang.

      The executive director noted the new centre could also give both theatre companies the opportunity to increase their community programming, such as a playwriting course for high school students that the Arts Club runs.

      “It gives us greater facility to actually expand those programs, to have a much greater reach, to go far beyond the borders of Vancouver,” he said. “In fact, to go into the Metro Vancouver regions and have opportunities for that.”

      The facility is expected to take about 20 months to construct, with the first productions in the new theatre planned for the 2015/2016 season.

      Comments

      22 Comments

      Michael Puttonen

      Nov 5, 2013 at 2:51pm

      Contributions for this CAC in 2006 were to be:

      Wall Financial: $12m shell + $4m cash
      $16million
      VPTC $12m fittings + $12m (30 yr com. costs) $24million
      City bonus density
      $00.00

      Contributions for this CAC in 2013 will be:

      Wall Financial: $7.6m shell,+ $7m cash
      $14.6m
      BoB/AC: $5.2m fittings + $3m (30 yr com. costs)
      $8.2m
      City $7m + bonus density
      $7m

      The 2006 vs. 2013 CAC plan:

      Cost to VPTC for 30 years under 2006-2012 CAC: $24million.
      Cost to BoB/Ac for 30 years under 2013 CAC: $8.2million
      Savings
      $6.8million fittings
      Savings
      $9.0million com cost
      Savings to BoB/AC vs VPTC under 2013 plan total: $15,8milllion

      2006-2012 fundraising needed by VPTC/WineFest $12million.
      Amount actually raised:
      $00.00.
      2006-2012 fundraising events, campaigns, or committees: None.

      Funds committed by City 2006 to VPTC space,:
      $00.00 (of $16m)
      Funds committed by City 2013 to AC/BoB/WF space:
      $7million (of $14.8m)

      VPTC,/AC Revue,/100 W1st. venues 2006 plan vs. 2013 reality:

      Number of seats for sale any Tuesday in 2016 under 2006 plan:
      1188
      Number of seats for sale any Tuesday in 2016 under 2013 plan:
      250
      Net loss in no. of seats for sale VPTC,/AC Revue,/100 W1st:
      938

      Bailout:

      $1million city bailout of VPTC ($500k costs forgiven, $500k in cash) in 2011 was used to pay down the debt in preparation for liquidation of the company in 2012.

      Operatiing resources (approximate) possessed by VPTC upon liqudation in 2012:

      $1million operating grants. $800k susbscription base,. $600k (or 100%) rent subsidy, $400k WineFest surplus, $450k in cash from City of Vancouver in 2012-13, and $150k per annum thereafter...
      ....for a total of $2.8million per annum.

      Length of time to pay $1million deficit:

      The VPTC $1million deficit could have been paid down in 36 months by returning executive compensation to 2008 levels, or retired in 30 months by dedicating Wine Fest receipts, or in 18 months by doing both.

      The $1million deficit was created in a mere 14 months, by pegging the budget to the WineFest's extraordinary 2007 returns, and then adding an extrat $300k per annum in executive compensation. When Wall removed the condos from the market in 2008, VPTC had to wait an extra 2 years to liquidate. Hence the extra cash in the City bailout of 2011.

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      Hazlit

      Nov 5, 2013 at 5:13pm

      Screw community programming. The function of art is to educate and ennoble the spirit. Art should NOT reach down to the community, instead the community should reach up to art. All great art is done in opposition to community. This doesn't mean being difficult for the sake of being difficult (that is only another form of populism) but of being true to the inherent value of the art work. Community programming smacks of pandering and thus of ruining the mission of art.

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      cathy

      Nov 6, 2013 at 4:11am

      The Arts Club has really benefited from the demise of the Playhouse Theatre Company.

      Since that company folded, The Arts Club have done such community unfriendly things as: jacking up prices, introduced two tier ticket pricing and eliminated the seniors rate.
      Seems that their "reward" is this new facility.
      After all according to councillor Deal the revenue they can generate is "remarkable".

      What are they showing now? Mary Poppins.
      Wow!
      Can hardly wait to see what rehash aimed at the commercial mainstream they will come up with at this new theatre.

      Nothing like empire building to kill creativity.

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      ...

      Nov 6, 2013 at 11:09am

      A nominal rent of $10? Here's hoping they are able to rent space to emerging groups for the same amount... Or will this just be another way they can nickel and dime other theatre companies out of the market?

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      Reno Dikaios

      Nov 6, 2013 at 3:56pm

      This is highly disturbing and confusing news.

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      John

      Nov 6, 2013 at 10:20pm

      It is extraordinary how the deal morphed from VPTC to AC/Bard. VPTC couldn't get $900k in the end by Barts Club gets $7m. Bart could negotiate from a position of strength - they didn't need the facility like VPTC did so could walk away leaving the bldg tenantless. Hence the concessions from COV.
      The fact is, it's going ahead and now to make the best of it. I hope the other theatre companies will put pressure on COV to get space at a wholesale rate or this is just unfair to everyone else. Or, build something else with CAC's from other developments.
      I think someone at COV should also put a motion forward to name at least a wing of it Playhouse in honour of the work VPTC did to make this happen and, let's not forget, it wouldn't have happened without them.

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      Reno Dikaios

      Nov 7, 2013 at 7:22am

      Excellent comments but the big question : how do you approve such a venture with a builder and city council and then switch gears midway? Doesn't this take a lot of civic planning, engineering, permits, etc ? How many people would be involved knowing the intention was for the Playhouse? This isn't an easy task. How do you go from one set of agreements in 2006 to a completely different set in 2013? This is serious to me, this issue. Wasn't the Playhouse the City's First Priority? This stinks from a mile away and everyone can smell it.

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      Michael Puttonen

      Nov 7, 2013 at 11:44am

      2003 – Wall Financial Corporation buys 100 W. 1st. The whole block.

      2005/2006 –
      A new Chair at VPTC Board of Governors, after altogether a mere 12 mos. (as vice-chair) before becoming Chair. Within a year, against significant opposition - or perhaps we could call it disarray, (see letter on file with re-zoning application) - signs a CAC deal with Wall and City, pledging $12million VPTC says it will raise in two years, and another ,$12million over 30 years. VPTC won’t own the building. The deal gives the City a $12million building and yields Wall Financial 135,000 square feet in bonus density that retails from $800-$1000 per square foot.

      2006 –
      The Playhouse international Wine Festival forms its own society, with a representation of Wine Fest Directors remaining on the VPTC BOG. John Stettner is GM at VPTC for exactly one year, just long enough to get the Wall deal through the rezoning and major development permits, and then moves to Tucson for a much better-paying future. Glynis is forced to leave, because the BOG decide to go the “Artistic General Manager” route.

      2007—
      WineFest/VPTC Board hire Max Reimer away from his cozy situation at TAq with an offer of the same job description at a theatre the same size, on the West Coast, for about double the money. Double the money. His marketing director came too, at a 50% increase.

      The 100% bonus is ostensibly because he was could be the rainmaker: He has to...raise $12million in two years...sell 3000 more subscriptions (at least)...and put the company on a footing to afford an extra $400k per annum for the space at 100 W. 1st.

      If he can do that, they say, the company will live.

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      Michael Puttonen

      Nov 7, 2013 at 11:45am

      2008
      Wall suspends sales for two years. All bets are off. Enough is enough. The unaffordable plan to move into 100 W 1st is abandoned, not formally, but a new Chair takes over and begins to load the Board with members brought over from the Wine Festival Board. They burden the company with structural debt, never raise a dime, have no committees for anything at all according to the records, and kill it in 2012.

      The civic bailout in 2011 ($1milllion) paid for (some of) the two year delay occasioned by Wall’s business decision in 2008.

      In 2012 the VPTC Board Executive that voted to kill the company even though it had nearly $3million in funding already committed for 2013-2014. 100% of ‘em of Wine Festival Directors. Gertrude was tired of Old Hamlet.

      Thus, the nature of the 100% bonus each year was that Max had a limited-time gig.

      Had Max Reimer not taken the WineFest/VPTC offer, he'd still be enjoying the kind of long-term tenure at TAq that BoB and AC leaders have had and will have. Instead of another however many years at TAq, he faces the uncertain life of a freelance director.

      And the fact remains that Glynis had cumulative operating deficits at the VPTC from 2000-2008 of $88,000. Over the same period, at theatre Aquarius, Max had cumulative operating deficits of $1,800.000million. Source: Canada Revenue Agency T3010 filings.

      In 2011, Wall Financial returned 26% on equity.
      It’s not the bumph that tells the tale, it’s the Balance Sheet.

      Playing capitalist games with not-for-profit pieces gets theatres killed. Only the strong survive. Capitalism tends toward monopoly. In this case, the death of VPTC and the closing of Arts Club Revue, replaced by 250 seat theatre means the loss of nearly a thousand seats a night for sale. The VPTC press release of March 2012 was b.s., and it has cost this town a lot. It’s that simple. This is a good new home for two venerable troupes. There will not be the level of alternative or community progamming there would have been, how can there be with two residents instead of one? An no community art gallery, it seems.

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      Michael Puttonen

      Nov 7, 2013 at 2:10pm

      FREE RENT AT THE PLAYHOUSE.

      The loss of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre company means 688 fewer seats for sale in Vancouver twenty plus weeks a year. The City of Vancouver gave the VPTC almost $600,000 p.a. in free rent, plenty o' free nights in that theatre. What happened to that?

      Perhaps at least some of the veteran atcors putting on shows at PAL would have taken up the opportunity for a few weeks of that $600k rent susidy. I flip the electronic pages of GS, and yes there are at least two currently running that could...

      FREE RENT AT THE PLAYHOUSE.

      The theatrical service organzations could get up a small campaign for Regional Playhouse quality performances (perhaps without the extras...) courtesy of...

      FREE RENT AT THE PLAYHOUSE.

      The re-purposing of the Arts Club Revue Theatre to an expanded public market, yhis has been known for a long time. This new venue is perfect. Bard, ditto. Who is more worthy of a home? And if that “premier cultural tourism event" joins them later, well, great. But it will take another 225 seats off the market.

      Fact is, the VPTC didn’t need a 2nd stage,with the main season at 25% of capacity. VPTC occpancy costs were the same every year 2000-2011 - $400k, and under the lease, the same plus cost of running the new performance space. VPTC plan in 2006 was to sell off the costumes and props before move-in 2010, and henceforth they’d build in their new shops, or rent as needed. Occupa

      None of it anyhow was even do-able or sustainable. The project, though, the CAC bonus amentiy deal, needed a “cultural partner” and at the time only VPTC could be made to fit the bill. This second space could only have lost the VPTC money, year over year, the way the deal was structured.

      There is a QUICK, SURE AND EASY solution to the salve the wound of losing our regional theatre.

      FREE RENT AT THE PLAYHOUSE.

      Is both do-able, and sustainable. The VPTC paid nothing, 50 yeaers. That’s an established line item if ever there was one in the city budget. Where did it go? Where’s that $600k free rent at the Playhouse?

      Actors can and perform all the big stage Congreve, Marlowe, Dryden, Goldsmith, Tagore, Chikamatsu, Jonson, Moliere, Miller, Williams, Ryga Cone, Tidler, MacLeod, etc. Give THEM that $600k free rent, for Equity Co-ops or however they want to produce it.

      FREE RENT AT THE PLAYHOUSE...FREE RENT AT THE PLAYHOU.........

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