Opinion
2 min

New facility for Qmunity

Information night planned after 20 years of effort results in $7 million

"We’re thrilled at this historic opportunity, and we take the responsibility of shepherding the process very seriously," says Qmunity executive director Dara Parker.

Since 1979, Qmunity has worked toward a world where all queer people are included and free from discrimination. We do this in three ways: delivering high-quality community programs, providing education and training, and advocating for our communities. As the only queer umbrella organization in the province, we are a dynamic hub for the LGBTQ community across BC.

For almost 20 years we have been actively looking for a new home. Located at 1170 Bute St since 1984, our geographical location has been ideal. Unfortunately, our facility falls short on almost every other front: it is not accessible; it is grossly undersized and overbooked; it lacks basic amenities; and its programming spaces do not meet the needs of the community.

The search for a new facility dates back almost 20 years. Old files at Qmunity reveal that there have been numerous attempts over the years to secure a new space, none of which ultimately came to fruition. Recently, we have focused on the most viable option, working with the City of Vancouver to leverage a community amenity contribution to build a new facility.

For the last two years, Qmunity actively participated in the public West End Neighbourhood Planning process, advocating for a new LGBTQ facility. After 18 months of robust public consultation, the plan was adopted in November 2013. As part of a comprehensive public-benefit strategy totalling $600 million, Qmunity was named as a priority to receive a new, purpose-built facility in the West End.

This gave city staff official direction to prioritize working with developers to fund a new location. City staff recommended that the Burrard Gateway Project, a redevelopment proposal at Burrard and Howe streets, provide a $7 million cash contribution toward a new facility. In December 2013, the project went to public hearing and was formally approved. 

After almost 20 years, this was an incredible victory for our community.

Our next step is to work closely with the City of Vancouver to secure a site location. We have budgeted $10 million to build a new facility based on a 10,000-square-foot model taken from the feasibility study conducted in 2007.

In previous consultations, Qmunity received overwhelming feedback that a new facility should remain in or close eto the West End. We have confirmed this with the city, but otherwise, the site selection process is driven largely by real estate availability and other market factors. Ultimately, we plan to leverage another development to fund the additional $3 million needed to complete the project.

We hope to secure a new site as early as June 2014. Upon securing a site, we will launch a comprehensive community consultation process led by an independent, arm’s-length third party.

Waiting until a site is selected is necessary to help focus the consultation on the possibilities and limitations of a known space. It will also provide enough time to develop a broad and meaningful process and engage the right organization to ensure that a range of feedback is collected in a transparent manner.

We know the new space will be approximately 10,000 square feet; at a location in or close to the West End; accessible, with some street-level access; and will have a mix of flexible, multipurpose spaces designed to meet the diverse needs of the community.

The new centre will serve as an anchor for all different types of queer organizations and services — it will be a dynamic, inclusive hub for everyone in the queer community, including our allies and neighbourhood supporters.

We’re thrilled at this historic opportunity, and we take the responsibility of shepherding the process very seriously. This is why we look forward to having the diverse voices of our communities contribute to this process — to build a new facility for our community, together. 

Dara Parker is the executive director of Qmunity, BC’s queer resource centre.

Qmunity Information Night, Thurs, Feb 6, 6:30–7:30pm, Gordon Neighbourhood House, 1019 Broughton St. Wheelchair accessible.

This story is filed under Opinion, News & Ideas, Vancouver
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