$40 million Vernon cultural centre hits the campaign trail | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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$40 million Vernon cultural centre hits the campaign trail

Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
August 28, 2018 - 1:23 PM

VERNON - The campaign to convince voters to agree to spend $25 million on a new cultural centre kicked off today.

The Regional District of North Okanagan launched its two-month campaign ahead of a referendum taking place along with the municipal election on Oct. 20. The referendum will ask voters in the City of Vernon, the District of Coldstream and regional district areas 'B' and 'C' whether if they would agree to borrow $25 million over 20 years to build a $40 million Greater Vernon Cultural Centre.

The plan to build a cultural centre in one form or another dates back over a decade or more but so far attempts have either failed or been scrapped.

If successful, the Greater Vernon Cultural Centre will become the new home of the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives and the Vernon Public Art Gallery. The three-storey 39,000 square foot building would also boast a 150- to 200-seat performance space, have room for travelling exhibits at the museum and art gallery, and feature meeting, classroom and workshop spaces along with a gift shop. The building, which has yet to be designed, will sit at the corner of 30 Street and 34 Ave, a site currently owned by the city, opposite the city hall building. The centre would use one-third of the land and the rest left for mixed-use development.

If the referendum is successful and the regional district puts up $25 million, the remaining $15 million would be funded by grants, fundraising and partnerships. If all goes to plan the doors would open in 2020.

At the cultural centre's official campaign launch today, Aug. 27, regional district community service manager Tannis Nelson said if approved, the cultural centre would cost $48 per year for the average household based on the assessed property value of $430,000. Nelson pointed out the $36 per household debt for Kal Tire Place and the Performing Arts Centre will be paid off when the cultural centre loan begins, putting the increase to taxpayers at $12 per household per year. Operations would cost households $1 a year, she said.

Greater Vernon Advisory Committee chair Juliette Cunningham defended the price tag.

"If you believe in complete communities, arts and culture is an important part of that, and we've really limited the potential that we have here, we haven't invested in our (arts and culture) infrastructure since 1967," she said.

When asked whether the money would be better spent at the grassroots level of arts and culture, Cunningham said the two did not have to be mutually exclusive.

"Creating this venue for this cultural centre is actually going to give those cultural organizations an opportunity to thrive," she said.

The campaign will now hit the streets with various information sessions being held around the region.

In June 2018 the regional district approved the referendum, slated for the same day as the municipal election, and although the actual question on the referendum hasn't as yet been approved by the province, Nelson said the question should be clear to determine if voters want to spend that money.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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