Maritime Museum of B.C. charts course for Langford

The Maritime Museum of B.C. will this month take a step toward its goal of establishing a permanent home in Langford as it hires a real estate firm to oversee development of its proposed multi-use project.

David Leverton, the museum’s executive director, said despite the turmoil created by the coronavirus outbreak, it has managed to move the project forward.

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“This is a huge step for us,” he said of the hiring of a project manager.

In February, the museum signed a memorandum of understanding with the City of Langford to partner in the construction of an $87-million performing arts centre and museum to be built across from Costco.

The museum, which has been leasing a small, temporary space in downtown Victoria since it was forced to leave its home in Bastion Square in 2015, hopes to build an 80,000-square-foot space on McCallum Road.

The museum would be part of a complex that includes a 1,200-seat performing arts theatre, conference centre and office tower.

Langford has committed to provide the land and services and pay for the $30-million theatre. The museum is responsible for financing the $57-million exhibit space.

Leverton said the museum has been working on a business plan to ensure the museum will be self-sustaining.

It would own its space, lease out some exhibit space and build and lease out an office tower that will ensure a steady, long-term income.

Leverton said given the scale of the deficits expected at both the federal and provincial government levels, arts groups will face a future with less financial government support.

“So we want to make sure we are not reliant on government funding in the future, we want to create a self-sustaining project,” he said.

The museum will still hope to entice building grants and funding from all levels of government to start construction.

Leverton said if need be it could take the project directly to banks for financing, but that would require secured long-term leases for the proposed office space.

He believes the plan could be a pilot project for how arts and culture groups secure their futures in a post-COVID world.

The museum has until the late fall of 2022 to put together its end of the deal with Langford. Leverton is confident of having the office tower completed by the fall of 2023 and the museum could be open for business by the spring of 2024.

“We have a fair amount of time here,” he said. “We’re on track where we need to be.”

The Maritime Museum had to leave the Bastion Square building it called home for 50 years after it was deemed to be in an unsafe condition.

It currently operates from 3,000 square feet at 634 Humboldt St., meaning most of its 35,000-artifact collection is in climate-controlled storage supplied by the province.

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