Vernon residents agreed to borrow up to $25 million for a new cultural centre in 2018. (Contributed)

LETTER: New cultural centre idea from retired architect

Morning Star reader pitches these ideas for the new cultural centre

Dear Mayor and Members of Council:

It is my well educated opinion that the proposed location for the proposed new Cultural Centre (Museum and Art Gallery) is a gigantic and expensive mistake for a number of reasons which will be listed below. Site ‘A’ is identified as the former site of the old arena at the southeast corner of 39th Avenue and 31st Street. Site ‘B’ is identified as approximately 1/3 of the city block located southeast of 30th Street and 32nd Avenue.

• ACCESS – Tourists and school buses travelling south on Highway 97 (32nd Street) can easily left turn at the traffic light at 39th Avenue and drive one block eastward to the tourist office and Site ‘A’. To reach Site ‘B’ from Highway 97 is much more devious and confusing. Site ‘A’ is also only one block north of the existing Civic Centre.

• CURRENT PROPOSAL – If Site ‘B’ is used and the Art Gallery is located on the ground floor, then the Museum and Archives would be spread out over the second and third floors with no surface parking available, including for tourist and school buses, and difficult garbage and loading area. In addition, there would need to be a freight elevator for the museum (thus limiting scope of displays), and a passenger elevator for both the museum and archives in addition to two sets of exit stairs, washrooms, hallways, reception areas, gift shops, etc., etc., for both upper floors, all of which will likely add at least 30-40 per cent to the total area of the new facility, and so, cost. In addition, according to my 2006 BC Building Code, the floor loading for offices and parking is 50 pounds per square foot (psf); for library stack rooms is 150 psf; but for the fireproof archive vault storage with movable shelving where ten or more 7 ft high movable shelving units could be compressed into an area of 300 square feet, I calculate that the floor loading could be as much as 525 psf, a load which would have to be carried through two storeys if the Archives are on the third floor, thus adding another abnormal cost to the structure. In addition, if underground parking is required, then more expense would be incurred. This would all add up to an extraordinarily expensive building with no additional amenities as described for Site ‘A’ below, and no opportunity for future expansion.

• SITE ‘A’ PROPOSAL – In addition to much more feasible vehicular access, the Tourist Office, Art Gallery, Museum, and Archives could all be on the ground floor with shared loading area, reception, washrooms, gift shop, meeting room(s) off a common foyer, and no duplicate exit stairs required over several floors. Convenient school and tourist bus unloading and storage area and general surface parking could all be either on site, or adjacent (for example angle parking along both 31st Street and 37th Avenue). In addition, there could be a unique, very well landscaped, park-like, combined surface parking area and sculpture garden, while still accommodating the proposed extension of 30th Street to 39th Avenue and its round-about intersection. Not only that, but also there could be a very nice specialty restaurant above the low ceiling areas of the ground floor, with a window wall overlooking part of the higher ceiling areas of the Museum and Art Gallery below, and a patio overlooking the sculpture garden and surrounding parts of the city, with exterior stairs to ground level.

• IN SUMMARY, we could have all of this at a much lower cost, and have Site ‘B’ available for intensive commercial and upper multiple floor residential use. Seems sensible and feasible to me, rather than a redundant park within two blocks of our current recreation complex.

Yours truly,

Charles Wills

Retired Architect

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