B.C. checks out suitors for former site of Maritime Museum

The provincial government is looking to find out who is interested in using its historic building at 28 Bastion Square.

The 128-year-old landmark was an early provincial courthouse and long-time home of the Maritime Museum of B.C., which has submitted a response to B.C.’s request for expressions of interest for the four-storey property. The request closed Friday, and the number of responses was not immediately available.

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The Maritime Museum is keen to renew its connection with the building and add a collections management structure, plus an annex for travelling exhibits.

In 2015, the museum moved out to a smaller space at 634 Humboldt St. after the province said there were safety concerns with the old structure.

It had been in that building since 1965.

Ideally, the museum would return to Bastion Square by the summer of 2021 to mark the 150th anniversary of B.C. joining Confederation, museum officials said.

David Leverton, museum executive director, is calling for the building to be designated a provincial heritage site to ensure protection guidelines are followed under B.C. heritage conservation legislation. “We are open to working in collaboration with other arts and cultural groups in the city,” he said Friday.

B.C. will now evaluate responses to its request for expressions of interest.

It will be at least a month before there is any decision regarding the next step, a provincial official said.

In the request for expressions of interest, the Ministry of Citizen Services said it needs the information to structure a possible future bidding opportunity to revitalize the building.

A ministry report on the building estimated it would cost about $20.5 million to rehabilitate and update.

A group including the Downtown Victoria Business Association, the Bastion Square Revitalization Association and the City of Victoria has mulled using the building as an arts hub, with shared space for workshops, studios, exhibits and performances.

Jeff Bray, executive director of the DVBA, was out of town, but said he believes the group made a submission to the province.

The building has been empty since the museum moved out. The federal-provincial Canadian register of historic places says the building was designed by prominent architect Hermann Otto Tiedemann.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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