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.