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The Centre unveils visual wish list

More consultation, interim move planned

A PEEK AT THE PLANS: The above diagram represents data collected from some 900 community members about what they'd like to see in an ideal queer centre. Credit: Xtra West Files

After months of community consultation, The Centre’s board finally released a schematic layout of the resources and services a new building would include Jun 12, saying specifics about costs and location will have to wait on yet another phase of assessment and consultation.

The next round, Phase 3, will include an evaluation of the queer community’s ability to raise the capital to sustain the operation of whatever is built, says returning board co-chair Craig Maynard, re-elected at The Centre’s annual general meeting and open house last week.

“So there’s two parts to it, the assessment that has to be done by mid-July…[and] city hall has to see that information, Maynard explains.

Once that is done, he says, The Centre will have “a clue as to what is realistic as far as what can be raised.”

“If that assessment says we can raise what’s talked about here, then that’s a positive thing,” he says. If not, “then we may have to look at a different design or configuration.”

There’ll be no capital-raising campaign until “we have a strong understanding of what our ability is to raise capital,” he notes.

“Once that has been determined, then The Centre can look in more detail at what the physical needs are for the facility and start to look at different operating models,” according to Ana Policzer, a senior associate at Cornerstone Planning Group retained earlier this year to do a space analysis of the resources and services the queer community has on its wish list for a new centre.

In the meantime, The Centre is on the lookout for interim space, to house its current services—one of the first orders of business for incoming executive director, Michael Harding, to resolve.

Harding, a well-known professional fundraiser, will take office on Jun 30 after Donna Wilson leaves office at the end of the month (See brief page 7).

Maynard says the interim space will be within the West End, but can’t give a definite moving date—maybe in the next few months. The temporary move is necessary because renovating the current space to make it more accessible and welcoming would be too costly, he says.

East Side resident Kona, who doesn’t use a last name, expressed disappointment in The Centre’s open house.

“I was expecting, number one, what did you hear about where it should be located, what did you hear about what the services should be. They reported back on some of that, but not all of it.

“And I also expected to see something that said: this is why people don’t access The Centre, [and] why they do access The Centre.”

If the goal is to come up with something that works for everyone, part of the study must be an evaluation of what The Centre currently offers to determine whether or not it is relevant, Kona suggests.

“There’s lots of problems with [The Centre’s] access and [its] programming,” Kona claims. “So they get information, they put it up against an outdated mandate, they put it up against programming that isn’t being accessed by as wide a community as they claim to want [to reach], and of course, they come up with a shopping list that is not hugely divergent from what they had before.”

“We’re not final yet,” Maynard told Xtra West at the open house. “We’re taking measured steps that still allow people to give us their input. We don’t want to go too far down the road and realize we’re out of sync with the communities. So it’s important that we constantly give that opportunity for communities to get back to us on what we’ve done so far.”

At the moment, The Centre operates out of just under 5,000 square feet split between the main site at Davie and Bute, and the additional office at 1033 Davie St. What is envisaged for The Centre’s new digs is in the neighbourhood of 27,000 to 30,000 square feet.

“That’s seven or eight times the space we [now] cover,” Wilson calculates.

Asked whether that precludes a return to the Davie and Bute location, Wilson says there are many different perspectives about what is meant by an ideal location.

There is the possibility of collaborating with a developer, as well as working with the owner of the Davie and Bute property “to see what opportunities are there,” says Wilson, but there are “a lot of thoughts about a location in the West End and a lot of thoughts about a location in the East Side” as well as ideas for setting up shop in other Lower Mainland areas.

“Don’t know, don’t know. Can’t say,” Maynard replies when asked about a specific location.

“The results from the survey told us most people thought there was a need to have it in a downtown West End location.” There was also “a strong message that a presence in the Commercial Dr area” was necessary, he adds.

Little Sister’s co-owner Jim Deva, who sits on the project steering committee, says he prefers a West End location.

“I would love to see it in the Village. It’s in the heart of our community. I think it’s important for there to be satellites, and other community members to be represented.”

Looking 10 to 15 years into the future, there’ll be more demographic shifts, Deva admits, “so there has to be some reflection put into it.” The realities of the real estate market have to be taken into consideration, he points out.

Kona couldn’t agree more. The reality is that land on the peninsula is more expensive than that in the eastern section of the city, she notes.

“I think it’s important to look at the demographic shift of people, and I don’t think they’re going to be staying in the West End,” she predicts. “In which case I say put The Centre in another part of the city. It doesn’t all have to be that one street.”

As for where the development and operational funding will come from, Maynard says all traditional sources of capital will be tapped.

“So all levels of government, federal, provincial and city. We’ll be going to [our] corporate allies and supporters as well. Individuals will play a large part [in] that, foundations, people like you and me.”

And the grand opening?

“No projection for that,” says Maynard, adding that for developments like this, “five years in not an unrealistic figure.”

Typically, campaigns to raise money involving picking a space, architectural design take time, he notes. “More opportunity for community members to come forward and give advice.”