Vancouver report recommends four groups as tenants for Woodward's cultural space

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      Vancouver staff are recommending four arts groups as tenants for city-owned cultural amenity space in the Woodward's building.

      A report going before the city’s standing committee on planning, transportation and environment on October 1 recommends that council approve Kokoro Dance Theatre Society as the lead not-for-profit tenant in the space.

      The other groups being recommended to share the space are the Vancouver International Dance Festival Society, Vancouver Moving Theatre Society, and Raven Spirit Dance Society.

      Jay Hirabayashi, the executive director of Kokoro Dance Theatre Society, said the venue will also be rented out to community groups at affordable rates.

      “I think that the initial aim for that space when it was developed was that it was a community space and that it would be animated with activity, and so we hope to be helping to make it a space that is used by lots of people and is full of creative things happening,” he told the Straight by phone.

      Hirabayashi said Kokoro Dance, which was founded in 1986, has been hoping to find a home “for the last 28 years”. The group currently rents studio space in the Harbour Dance Centre and occasionally the Scotiabank Dance Centre.

      If council approves the staff recommendations, the four groups will occupy a cultural amenity space consisting of more than 7,000 square feet over three floors. The space includes second-floor offices, the street-level area that used to be the W2 Media Café, and a large basement that will be converted to studio space.

      The city has been looking for a new tenant for the cultural space after W2 ceased operations in early 2013.

      Staff selected the four groups following a request for expressions of interest in June 2013 and a request for proposals in March.

      “The four arts and cultural organizations staff recommended for this important space are deeply rooted in the neighbourhood,” the staff report reads.

      “The provision of the shared space will strengthen their operations and further transform this important space in the heart of the DTES.”

      According to staff, the selection process was based on whether the applicant had a strong vision that contributed to the Downtown Eastside and Vancouver’s arts and cultural community, whether their proposal had the ability to address a gap that will contribute positively to the community, and whether the organization had the capacity to operate sustainably.

      The proposed lease is for a term of five years, at a nominal rent of $10.

      Kokoro Dance will be responsible for covering operating, maintenance, insurance, utility, and janitorial costs, in addition to its share of common area maintenance costs, such as heat and light.

      For 2014, the common area maintenance costs for the street level and basement space are about $34,000, and $20,800 for the second floor office space.

      Kokoro Dance has produced more than 1,000 performances at events including the Powell Street Festival. The organization has an annual operating budget of $400,000.

      The Vancouver International Dance Festival Society, which was launched by Kokoro Dance in 2000, produces the annual dance festival, and has an annual operating budget of $640,000.

      Vancouver Moving Theatre produces the Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival, and Raven Spirit Dance produces contemporary dance rooted in indigenous perspectives.

      If council signs off on the lease next week, Hirabayashi expects the space could be up and running within a year, once renovations are completed.



      Sid Chow Tan

      Sep 26, 2014 at 6:46am

      W2 was evicted at the end of November 2012 (not early 2013) for non-payment of an amenity fee of $85k as I understand. Because W2 (the amenity) was unable to pay the amenity fee, the space has been empty since.

      It should be noted a local residents advisory committee recommended a community media centre. I support Kokoro Dance and it's partners in successful use of the space. My hope is they will continue the work for a much needed community media arts centre for the DTES.

      The COV still has much to answer for in its treatment of W2, which was successful in every way but financial. It never got the opportunity and time to turn itself around financially.

      What was the sense in evicting W2 and leaving it empty for almost two years?

      Michael Puttonen

      Sep 26, 2014 at 10:17am

      @ Sid Chow Tan

      The situation is a difficult one. The City has been playing one cultural group off against another for a decade now. What I see is this:

      W2 served its purpose. W2 was a bait and switch to get the Woodwards project a ton of bonus density.

      W2 was used more or less the way the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company was used to secure Wall False Creek south some 165,000 square feet in Bonus Density at 100 W 1st. Once ground broke on their building, the VPTC was then taken out by its own board (VPTC audited financials confirm this). Its place in the new was awarded to Arts Club and Bard on the Beach. And suddenly the City had an extra $7million to pay for the interior of the theatre.

      W2? Same pattern, different details, different timing... W2, an activist community group, helped get the bonus density, and then it was expendable. The City knew all along that W2 did not have the wherewithal to pay for the space. In fact, they were counting on it.

      Beatriz W. Osorio

      Oct 1, 2014 at 2:41pm

      As a resident of the community im disappointed in what I see as a poor choice , not only dance is my least favorite expression of art but frankly dance has never done well in Vancouver regardless of the grand operating budget Kokoro has. The community clearly is excluded from Woodwards unless they want to buy tickets to watch the elitist performances. As for the world we live in the doors are shouted, there will not be no discussions or addressing of social issues and \ or community issues like W2 regularly brought creating awareness on canadian mining abroad, human rights, showing films, inviting speakers, playing music serving food from around the world, etc.
      there was something for everybody , truly focus on community , W2 ended up evicted by the COV because lacked that massive "operating budget" which is not surprise , cause when you say nothing money comes easy but when you step on toes it doesn't .
      Nevertheless good luck to the new tenants.