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Victoria in search of new community arts hub

Existing home could become site of a hotel and residential tower.
The arts hub building at 780 Blanshard St. in Victoria. GOOGLE STREET VIEW

With the broad goal of trying to establish Victoria as a welcoming home for artists and an affordable place for them to ply their trade, Victoria council has directed staff to consider options to secure a long-term community arts hub.

Council also provided a grant of $390,000 over two years for the existing arts hub. The money, to come from the 2024 and 2025 budgets, would be in lieu of a permissive tax exemption and allow the hub to continue operating while the study is undertaken.

Coun. Jeremy Caradonna said the grant buys the hub a couple of years while the city works with the non-profit Vancouver Island Visual Arts Society to find a solution.

“I think all of us have been there and done a tour and seen the incredible value that the art hub brings to downtown,” said Caradonna. “We don’t want to just see this fold in two years and all those artists are back out on the street and or leaving Victoria and taking with them their incredible talents.”

Coun. Matt Dell said the private sector is not going to fund something like this so it falls to the city.

“The Create Victoria strategy specifically said that we need to find ways to make maker-space available for artists, artists who become small business owners, who become the people who beautify the city and enhance residents’ lives,” he said.

Dell said there are buildings around downtown owned by government and the private sector that could be candidates for such a hub.

The current arts hub is at 780 Blanshard St. Operated by the Vancouver Island Visual Arts Society it has created a home for about 80 arts organizations and provides affordable workspace and studios.

The problem is the space is not always going to be available.

Reliance Properties owns the building and has published plans to establish a 77-room hotel and 102-unit residential tower on the site of what was once the B.C. Power Commission building.

Jon Stovell, chief executive of Reliance, has estimated the cost of repurposing the heritage building and building the tower would cost in excess of $50 million.

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