Vancouver
3 min

New home needed

The Centre needs 20,000 sq ft-and city money

SLOT MONEY WOULD HELP. Executive director Donna Wilson says The Centre is now operating on a short-term lease and is working with city staff to find a new home on city-owned property. The COPE members of city council see The Centre as a future recipient of slot revenues. Credit: Xtra West files

Having long served the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgenderd community from its humble offices above the northeast corner of Davie and Bute, The Centre is setting its sights on a future filled with more services and a larger space.



Right now, the centre, located upstairs at 1170 Bute, occupies 4,000 square feet. But, says executive director Donna Wilson, that’s not enough. And, as it marks its 25th anniversary, it’s considering its options.



Alternatives being considered include one bigger space or several spaces in various parts of the city.



“We recognize that the queer community is not just the West End,” she says. “We’re looking to increase access to our resources.”



While the bulk of The Centre’s operations are from the Bute St location, the Generations Project for seniors is in the office building at 1033 Davie St, while other services are operated out of Mosaic and the Britannia Centre.



The Centre recently bought itself more time to map its future by re-negotiating its lease. Landlord Haven Management agreed to short-term renewals when the last lease recently expired. Now, says Wilson, it’s time to look to the future.



The Centre’s long-term vision encompasses securing larger premises more easily accessible to “the broadest range of community members” than is the current second floor location, Wilson explains.



The vision also involves the possibility of satellite offices serving the queer community in other areas of the city such as Commercial Dr, Wilson says.



Last summer city hall asked community groups to make proposals for the re-use of Watson House, a historically important Mole Hill location near the corner of Pendrell and Thurlow streets. The Centre considered making a proposal, but after talking to architects and construction consultants, decided Watson House had insufficient space for their future needs.



“We’d like to have about 20,000 square feet,” Wilson says.



Exploratory talks are now underway with city staff to see if a suitable space can be found in any of the multitude of city-owned buildings in the area.



But, acknowledges Wilson, finding a ground-floor West End space of the size needed for The Centre is “really difficult.”



Gay city councillor Tim Stevenson agrees.



“It’s excruciatingly hard to find something,” he says, adding he’s had discussions with Wilson about The Centre’s needs. Stevenson’s asked city staff to examine options for a possible home for The Centre.



“There’s too few places and too many people,” Stevenson says.



He wonders about the viability of setting up a satellite operation on Commercial Dr when the bulk of the gay community is located in the West End or visits the West End on a regular basis.



But, he says, he is committed to helping The Centre, and has discussed subsidies with mayor Larry Campbell.



Still, with a likely 5.5 percent property tax hike in the offing just to maintain current service levels, the city’s budget is stretched already, he says. But gambling revenues could add $15 million a year to city coffers-and that money would be directed to groups like The Centre.



“The only legitimacy for having slots would be to take that revenue and put it into areas like treatment centres and seniors centres and, in our community, the lesbian-gay community centre,” he says. “It’s the only way it makes any sense to me.”



And, the United Church minister adds, he’s discussed slot money with Wilson, who had no objections.



Interim visions for a new location would see The Centre maintaining its primary space of about 4,000 square feet.



“We don’t want to decrease our size because it would decrease our access to resources,” Wilson says.



Relying on both professional staff and volunteers, The Centre provides support, health and social services, and public education for the well-being of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, the transgendered and their allies in Vancouver and throughout BC.



It is home to the Prideline and Bashline, Out on the Shelves community library, and GAB Youth Services.



The Centre is funded through the three levels of government and also through grants, foundations and community donations.



According to the centre’s literature, it is committed to building pride and acceptance of diversity and to mitigating the impact of homophobia, heterosexism, transphobia and biphobia.



THE CENTRE.

1170 Bute St.