A vision to help rejuvenate downtown Vernon is going before civic leaders.
A group proposing an arts/culture building hopes Vernon council will overturn a finance committee recommendation Monday to deny a $24,000 grant for a feasibility study.
“We need to move this forward,” said Krystine McInnes, project director and developer.
The city’s finance committee recommends that McInnes and the North Okanagan Artists Alternative apply to the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee for funds.
McInnes has been working on the concept of a community space for six years.
“I am frustrated with the state of downtown and the lack of a cohesive community,” she said.
McInnes has joined forces with NOAA, which operates Gallery Vertigo, to propose renovating an existing building to include an art gallery, a cafe, a public market and retail activities. There could also be live-in studios for artists.
“It would create a destination for tourists and locals,” said McInnes, who describes the project as a social venture.
“When you merge public and private interests, you can create a building with hybrid uses. It’s a proven model and it’s occurred in other communities.”
Consultation has occurred with a number of groups, including the Kindale Developmental Association, Social Planning, the Food Action Coalition, the City of Vernon’s economic development committee and the Downtown Vernon Association, as well as local businesses.
The project requires a building about 30,000-square-feet in size and some locations have been identified.
The total price tag for the initiative ranges between $3 and $6 million, and while some would come from the private sector, it’s hoped the majority of the funding would come from the federal government.
“We have the grant application package ready to go,” said McInnes, adding that all that is being sought of the city is an investment in the feasibility study.
If the process proceeds as expected, it’s hoped building purchase and construction could begin in July, with occupancy in November 2015.
McInnes is confident the project can be a success and help with downtown redevelopment.
“The building will become self-sustainable and support itself financially.”