NORTH Vancouver's Presentation House Gallery is one step closer to finding its long-awaited new home on the city's waterfront after council agreed to put up more than half a million dollars for the move.
Council voted 5-2 Monday night to put up the cash from reserves set aside for a feasibility study, a building condition assessment and other studies, and to do remediation and technical work at the old Cates Building, which may house the relocated gallery.
If the project goes ahead, the gallery could join a tentatively planned North Vancouver Museum and another-yet-to-bedetermined attraction on Shipbuilder's square to form a "cultural precinct" at the foot of Lonsdale Avenue, according to the city.
Key to the debate at council was whether the B.C. Photography and Media Arts Society, which runs Presentation House, can bring in enough donations and grants to the table to finish the move and remain open.
The majority of council had confidence it could. "The program that they have is phenomenal. The ability for them to raise funds is quite significant but they need a start," said mayor Darrell Mussatto.
Speaking in favour of the motion, Coun. Pam Bookham argued that "priming the pump" and assuring the gallery remains viable is the city's responsibility.
"These are two very important cultural facilities that deserve our support. We've got to understand that our role simply isn't to create housing. We do that every week. We do it an all sorts of forms. There has to be a cultural life for our residents," she said.
With Presentation House in the mix, the proposed precinct would draw in visitors from inside and outside the city, Coun. Don Bell argued.
Not everyone on council was supportive though. For Coun. Rod Clark, the price tag was simply too high for such a small community.
"The bottom line is, we're 50,000 people and we're four square miles. I have to question why the taxpayers should be fronting this money," he said, adding that he doesn't disagree with the project - just that it will cost so much up front. Metro Vancouver tax rates are due to double or triple in the next decade, he warned.
"Our taxpayers are besieged. People are going to get taxed out of their houses, so where do we start drawing the line?"
Coun. Guy Heywood agreed, adding the city runs the risk of sinking money into the project only to find the Photography and Media Arts Society can't solicit enough private donations to open and sustain it - similar to what happened with the scrapped National Maritime Centre.
The gallery has been open on Chesterfield Avenue since 1976, but organizers have been looking for a bigger location for its exhibits since the early 1990s.