TV Towers & the CBC building new development to get plaza

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Officials say the project will result in an integration of studios and resources, but will not produce staff reductions

Brian Morton

STUART DAVIS/VANCOUVER SUN Project manager Ken Golemba in the plaza in front of the CBC Building in downtown Vancouver. The site will be renovated by 2009.

Vancouver’s downtown CBC building is undergoing a full-scale renovation that will add a multi-use plaza, community space for a non-profit organization, and a more “collaborative working environment” for journalists.

The project, which is estimated to cost between $34 million and $38 million, is being funded through the sale of the property’s parking lot to a real estate development company, which will build condos on the site.

Although the project will result in an integration of studios and resources, staff reductions are not anticipated, project manager Ken Golemba, the CBC’s former operations manager for English television, said in an interview.

“No, that’s certainly not planned,” said Golemba. “The idea of integration is to make better use of the resources.”

Golemba also said the project was not precipitated by staff cutbacks over the past decade, which had left empty space in the CBC-owned building.

“This has nothing to do with any staff reductions. The building is over 32 years old and is in need of renovation.

“As we’ve evolved, the building has become a maze of interior walls, and it’s difficult to move people around. We’re trying to get four newsrooms working closer together.”

The redevelopment of the concrete structure at Georgia and Hamilton, which is home to the CBC’s second-largest English broadcasting centre, is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2009.

Key changes include:

n An enclosed public promenade for passersby to enjoy an “interactive space” and observe the CBC newsroom in action.

n A multi-use plaza featuring a 372-square-metre community performance space, outdoor stage, courtyard and water garden.

n A new newsroom and state-of-the-art production centre integrating studios and all of CBC/Radio Canada’s news and current affairs journalists. Large areas will be visible to the public, with one of the studios opening directly onto the plaza for live news coverage.

n About 780 square metres of community space to house a yet-unnamed non-profit cultural organization.

Golemba said the project is being funded by the sale of the building’s parking lot to Concord Pacific, which plans to build two condominium towers there. Parking will be moved underground.

Work on the condo towers is expected to commence next week.

The non-profit organizations will not pay rent to the CBC, just their own operating expenses.

Golemba said the integrated news room model is already in use in Edmonton and Ottawa.

“This is going to be a very open public space to welcome our community,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know what goes on in this building. You [will be able to] peer right into the newsroom and see it operating.”

Golemba said the CBC in Vancouver has not experienced any major staff reductions since 1997, when 30 to 50 people were let go. “Since then, we’ve gained new programs, and gained a number of staff back.”

Jim Thompson, spokesman for Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, a non-profit group advocating for more and better Canadian programming, said in an interview that he wasn’t aware of the Vancouver redevelopment, but fears there might be pressure to reduce staffing as the news operations are coordinated.

“We would hope there would be no further cutbacks, although the CBC is under tremendous financial pressures,” he said. “And the plans for the CBC by the current government are completely unknown.”

A total of 434 people work in the building, Golemba said.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006


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