City tackling art space shortage with three new creative/studio initiatives

Friday’s invitation to cultural organizations to bid for low-cost amenity space in a new Wall Financial project near the Olympic Village was more than matched at council today by new initiatives to generate tens of thousands of additional space across the city.

The centrepiece is a second request for proposals to lease two city industrial spaces, totalling 26,000 square feet, for studio and arts purposes. By the end of the day, the Red Gate Collective was already putting its markers down on one of the locations.

Rents in these properties would not be subsidized, so the trick will be to find new ways for groups of artists to manage tenancies through a single lessee.

This lengthy presentation by Richard Newirth, director of the city’s cultural services branch, indicated the city will also be pursuing new artists’ space in several major projects and undertaking a consultation in Mount Pleasant to determine the best allocation for $4.5 million in community amenity contributions generated by the recent Rize rezoning at Broadway and Kingsway.

Here’s the full text of Mayor Gregor Robertson’s news release:

Vancouver — The City of Vancouver announced a number of measures today that will significantly increase the availability of artists’ studio spaces, including over 26,300 sq. ft. of new studio and creative space that will be made available on two city-owned properties.

“Vancouver has the highest concentration of artists in Canada, and artists continue to constitute one of the fastest-growing segments of our labour force,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “The success of our creative economy is crucial to the health of our city, and today’s announcement is another example of how City Hall can help support local artists by increasing studio space.”

As part of a move to increase studio space in Vancouver, the City will be issuing a request for proposals for the use of 26,300 sq. ft. of new artists’ space at two city-owned industrial warehouses: 16,000 sq. ft. at 251 & 281 Industrial and 10,300 sq. ft. at 2625 & 2629 Kaslo. The leases will be for 3-5 years, with the aim to have tenants in place this winter.

Other measures the City is taking to support artists include:

·    An additional 13,000 sq. ft. of new studio space is committed for three recently approved developments, including 20 studios in 10,000 sq. ft. of space at 1265 Howe;
·    Issuing an RFP for a tenant at the Wall Centre at 102-160 West 1st, where 44,500 sq. ft. of space is designed to accommodate a 250-seat theatre and a rehearsal hall;
·    The Park Board is offering six additional field houses rent-free to artists in exchange for community-engaged arts projects and programming.

The announcement is the result of the Mayor and Council’s passage of a motion from Councillor Geoff Meggs on February 14th. The motion directed City staff to work with the Park Board and School Board to identify options to provide significant new artists’ space in Vancouver and to review ways to enhance the regulatory framework for the creation and protection of such studio spaces.