Posted by: VPSN | January 13, 2011

Update on relocating the VAG – and discussions on a new public plaza

The following media announcement just came in to VPSN headquarters – and provides some coverage and commentary on the possible relocation of the Vancouver Art Gallery to the old Larwill Park site (currently the big parking lot at Dunsmuir and Cambie).  We explored the issues around this a few times last year, and it’s interesting to see how things are moving forward.  At a quick first read it looks as if the VAG has been given a couple of years to make the case for the Larwill Park site, secure funding and conduct a more inclusive and robust engagement process.

A report on the subject will be in front of Council next week and can be viewed here.

As part of the proposal, there’s also discussion around the potential to create new public space(s) around the gallery, including a public plaza and the possible closure of Cambie Street between Georgia and Dunsmuir.  Exciting stuff that, in our mind, builds upon the work that’s been done on the expansion of Robson Square.

We’ll be reviewing the report and making further comment shortly.  In the meanwhile, here’s the City’s press release:

Report proposing downtown cultural hub, possible Vancouver Art Gallery relocation, public plaza coming to council

A staff report coming to Vancouver city council next week proposes setting aside two acres of 688 Cambie Street (the former Greyhound Bus depot and Olympic Downtown Live Site) for the development of a cultural hub and public plaza, which could include the relocation and expansion of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

“The exciting thing about this proposal is that it’s not just about the potential for a new cultural space, but also about the design and use of public space downtown,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “This site was the home for the Olympic Downtown Live Site and Four Host First Nations, and we want to create a lasting cultural and economic legacy from the success we saw during the Games.

“We have an opportunity to create a hub of cultural and economic activity in a unique and evolving part of downtown, while also developing a new space for the public to enjoy. That could include a new public plaza and even a possible closure of part of Cambie Street, which would create a vibrant public space as an Olympic legacy.

“These ideas will all be discussed as part of the consultations we’ll be kicking off, and I look forward to hearing from the public about them.”

The report, which will go to council Thursday January 20, recommends that the City reserve two acres of 688 Cambie for up to two years for cultural use. During this time, city staff would work with the Vancouver Art Gallery to develop a strategy that meets the future needs of both the Gallery and the City. The City would commit two acres of the lot at 688 Cambie, which is currently a surface parking lot, for a new Gallery if the VAG can develop a rigorous business plan, demonstrate broad support from the cultural community and the public, and provide evidence of its ability to successfully raise the required capital and operating costs.

The report to council proposes examining the potential for a public plaza fronting on Georgia Street, which would create continuity between the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza and 688 Cambie. There will also be discussions with other cultural groups like the Vancouver Concert Hall and Theatre Society, who have expressed interest in using the site for a concert hall and theatre.

The City will also undertake an extensive community consultation and public input process from the cultural community and general public on the Gallery and the use of the site at 688 Cambie.
“This proposal is a very positive step forward,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “The VAG is one of the most important cultural institutions in our city and it has made a compelling case for expansion and relocation. I want to recognize the patience and dedication the VAG has shown over these past few years – it has been a long process to arrive at this juncture but we now have a framework to move forward.

“This council has been a strong supporter of arts and culture – we did not make a single budget cut to the arts last year. We have a world-class arts and culture scene in Vancouver and we’re going to do everything we can to take it to the next level.”

The council report can be viewed here.

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Responses

  1. Friday 2 March, the Vancouver Sun notes that Sears Canada will be closing its Pacific Centre store by 31 October this year, returning it to Cadillac Fairview. This might be an ideal opportunity to re-invigorate downtown, keep the art gallery central to the city, by creating within the cavernous space a new art gallery, with a central open space for large scale installations, leaving the Larwill Park site for some other civic development. Of course I realize the VAG is very much committed to the latter site, but I believe the Sears site to be an ideal situation for the gallery:

    it maintains the downtown presence of the VAG rather than shifting it to the periphery
    the shell could be adapted without tearing the building down
    it allows the gallery to occupy an entire city block–even if, in the first decade or so, some of the building were leased for revenue purposes, much as the library has done
    it is easier and less expensive to retrofit than, say, the post office building
    it would be directly connected to the Canada Line and the nearby Skytrain stations


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