City of Vancouver pays $144k to CBC for unused downtown space

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Space needs $800k renovation before it can be rented

Mike Howell
Van. Courier

The City of Vancouver has paid $144,000 over the past three years to rent 8,000 square feet of vacant space in the downtown CBC building that was originally planned to be home to arts and culture groups.

Though the city says it has offset $20,000 of the tab by renting the barren space for occasional film shoots, it is still without a tenant or tenants and continues to pay rent.

The space at 700 Hamilton St. also needs at least $800,000 in upgrades including flooring, ceilings and other finishing needs before a tenant could move in.

“We’ve been doing our best to fill that space and I think that once we’re successful in terms of getting tenants in there, it will be well utilized and it will be well worth the wait,” said Richard Newirth, the city’s managing director of cultural services. “It’s taken us longer than we’ve liked.”

The city negotiated the space in 2006 as a condition of approving the development permit for the CBC to complete major renovations on its building.

The city took possession of the space Dec. 1, 2009 and had interest from the children’s, folk and jazz festival organizations to occupy the space.

But, Newirth said, the recession and the city requiring the organizations to pay $800,000 to upgrade the space proved financially prohibitive for the groups.

“One after another, the organizations dropped out,” he said.

Since then, the city negotiated with the developer of the massive Telus Garden project being built at West Georgia and Richards to commit $1 million to pay for upgrades to the space at CBC. The money was a condition of rezoning the property, which is a couple of blocks from the CBC.

Newirth said now the onus won’t be on arts and culture groups to pay for the upgrades. The city plans to put another call out in a couple of months to search for potential tenants, he said.

If a tenant or tenants are selected, Newirth anticipates the space could be occupied by the fall. The city aims to find a tenant or tenants that could also use the plaza space outside the CBC building.

“We finally have the resources to go ahead and do it and I thinks it’s going to work,” Newirth said.

Katharine Carol, artistic and executive director of the Vancouver International Children’s Festival, said Monday the space and the city’s commitment to cover costs of the upgrades are enticing. The festival offices are currently in a shared space on Beatty Street.

However, Carol said, she would have to consult with the festival’s board of directors and find out more details about the city’s renewed efforts to find a tenant before saying whether the festival office would be seriously interested in moving.

“There’s a whole bunch of information I’d have to get,” she said. “We certainly couldn’t move in to that kind of space on our own. We would have to be partnering with people because that’s way too much space for us.”

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