It’s been a long and winding road but Qmunity has finally found a location for its new home, and one that isn’t outside Vancouver’s queer Village.
Qmunity — BC’s queer, trans, and two-spirit resource centre — offers year-round programming and services aimed at improving the lives of community members “through support, connection, and leadership.” It also helps individuals, families, businesses, schools and service providers learn how to make their spaces more LGBT-inclusive.
The new space will be at Burrard and Davie streets (the northeast corner, across from the community garden), and will be funded by $7 million in community amenities from the rezoning of Burrard Place, and also through a $200,000 capital grant from the city for the design and planning of the new facility.
The announcement came on May 19, 2017, at Qmunity’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia fundraiser breakfast. Mayor Gregor Robertson shared the news as part of his opening remarks at the event.
“Our council in very recent days made the unanimous decision to support a brand new home for Qmunity. It’s long overdue, we’ve been looking for a long time,” he told the audience. “We’re thrilled to be able to help provide a space for you and make sure you have a great new home right here in the heart of Vancouver.”
Robertson says Qmunity will have a nearly 1,000 square-metre space in the new building, which will be constructed on land purchased by the city two years ago. He said there will be over 100 affordable housing units above Qmunity.
He directly thanked Councillor Tim Stevenson for his work on the project.
Stevenson, who was part of the group that first began organizing to establish Qmunity (then called The Centre) in 1979, has been pushing for a new LGBT resource centre since he was first elected to city council in 2002.
“It’s been such a long, long road to get here. It feels wonderful and a relief to finally have it nailed down,” he says.
In December 2013, Vancouver city council voted unanimously to allocate $7 million in funds — obtained as part of a rezoning and development application — for the new centre. What followed was an extensive community consultation to find out what Vancouver’s queer communities wanted out of a new centre. There was also the challenge of finding the right location.
Stevenson says it was important that Qmunity stay in the Davie Village.
“Nobody was selling and of course the prices were going up through the roof. We could find locations outside of the Village area but we were all very keen that it should be in the Village,” he says. “[Davie] has been really the focus of the gay community. And to move out of there would have dissipated that.”
Stevenson says that while the city purchased the Davie/Burrard location two years ago, at the time Qmunity was still looking into the possibility of renovating and upgrading their current location on Bute Street.
He says he would like to see only affordable housing above Qmunity (as opposed to a mixed market/subsidized model) and that his dream would be for the housing to be reserved for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Qmunity’s executive director CJ Rowe says the news is has been a long time coming.
“I’m on the edge of my seat ready to go,” Rowe says. “We are working with an architect, and now that we have council approval to move forward we will be engaging with a feasibility study and a design phase.”
During its consultation process which began in 2015, the organization heard from more than 750 community members. CJ says one of the issues raised repeatedly was accessibility.
“It’s more than an elevator and wheelchair– and scooter– accessible washrooms. It’s about bringing physical accessibility into the built space as well as gender inclusivity,” Rowe says. “One of the things I’m interested in shepherding forward is [if] there’s a way to build two-spirit community, indigenous community elements into this space that are actually culturally relevant to here.”
Rowe says the new centre will share the ground level with some commercial spaces and will also have rooms on the second floor as well. Rowe confirms there will be multi-purpose spaces for community members and groups to access.
In terms of affordability, Rowe acknowledges there will be added costs to having a larger facility.
“It will come out once we engage with the city in terms of [next steps],” Rowe says. “This is why the ‘building a sustainable future for Qmunity‘ [fundraising initiative] is important because there will be some new levels of operation that we don’t currently have.”
Neither Rowe nor Stevenson could confirm when construction will start on the new site.
“Well we’re hoping it’ll be done in a couple years, so I imagine fairly soon,” Stevenson says.