Arts facility one step closer

White Rock council looking into leasing out vacant Mel Edwards Centre

The potential for an arts centre for White Rock is “closer and closer than ever” according to Patrick Reynolds, executive director of Semiahmoo Arts, formerly the Community Arts Council of White Rock and District.

“It’s a good start,” he said Wednesday following a presentation from president Barbara Cooper at the July 25 council meeting, in which the organization pitched using the vacant Mel Edwards Centre in Centennial Park as a location for its office and for working space for its members.

Council authorized staff to review the negotiation of a lease with Semiahmoo Arts, and that it be based on a recovery of operational costs for the building, which has been replaced by the newly opened Centre For Active Living.

City manager Peggy Clark noted those costs are $12,500 annually, not including janitorial costs, which would add another 40 per cent.

The building is also in need of capital repairs, Clark said.

“We wouldn’t want to put someone in that building and have the furnace not work.”

Clark said there weren’t plans for the city to undertake the repairs, as the Mel Edwards Centre was originally slated to be demolished after the Centre for Active Living was constructed.

Coun. Mary-Wade Anderson asked if Semiahmoo Arts had explored other locations, particularly in the town centre.

Reynolds told council they had, but considered the Mel Edwards Centre to be ideal.

“I really like the idea of getting into the community and bridging the gap between sports and arts,” he said. “It’s kind of fun to think of what the possibilities are.

“I just think it’s a good fit.”

In response to a question about parking, Reynolds said it was a concern, and something that would have to be discussed further. Semiahmoo Arts would be willing to share the space with other groups, potentially creating cost-savings, he noted.

Coun. Lynne Sinclair expressed gratitude for all Semiahmoo Arts has done for the community.

“I appreciate it so much and I’d really like to keep you in the community,” she said. “I hope that we’re able to work that out.”

Reynolds said Wednesday that Semiahmoo Arts hopes to pursue negotiations for the building as soon as possible, as the organization was to move out of its Windsor Square location July 31.

He noted that the Centennial Park proposal is in keeping with council’s avowed goal of having an arts centre, and the findings of the city’s Cultural Mapping project.

“Behind this is a vision that is going to touch a whole lot of people – including people who might not ordinarily be exposed to the arts,” he said, adding he is heartened by council’s response to the proposal.

“One – they’re listening, and two – they do have a plan and they’re listening to their consultants.”

– with files from Alex Browne


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