A new home for the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives (pictured) and Vernon Public Art Gallery would be located in Vernon city centre and cost around $40 million. (Morning Star file photo)

Size, cost set for proposed Vernon cultural facility

Size of new home for museum and art gallery is about 58,000 square feet; cost is $40 million

The plan for a new multi-purpose cultural facility for Greater Vernon has a preliminary size and cost estimate.

The Regional District has approved the preliminary funding strategy that proposes to use project timing to moderate the tax impact on Greater Vernon residents.

The total project budget, which has been given a cost of $40 million, is made up of pre-construction and project management costs of $3.34 million, construction costs of $29.38 million, a construction contingency of $5.78 million, and a land purchase contingency of $1.5 million.

Juliette Cunningham, the chairperson of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee and City of Vernon councillor, sees this project as an investment.

“The Greater Vernon cultural facility will be more than a community asset,” said Cunningham. “It will be an investment in our city. A cultural destination like this will draw people downtown. When more people are downtown people feel safer, restaurants and businesses are busier, and we see a greater economic benefit to our region.”

Added Tracy Satin, curator and director of the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives: “This is such an exciting time for Vernon and the greater community. As eager as we all are, I am happy that the planning process continues to be thoughtful and inclusive. This new facility will launch us all into a new era and provide all of us with a unique space that is much needed by the local community and will be a draw for visitors from near and far. As our community continues to become more diverse, it is important to have a place to reflect on our history as well as to build our future.”

Over the last several months, the regional district has been working with architects and community stakeholders to develop an operational program and building concept for a new multi-purpose cultural facility.

The facility, to be located in the Vernon city centre, will provide improved space for the art gallery and museum, as well as flexible spaces that will be available to other community organizations that are struggling to find venues to offer their programs and activities.

“The process has been long but thorough, and we are now at a place where we can move forward with confidence that we are building an amenity that will meet both the current and future needs of our community,” said Dauna Kennedy, executive director of the Vernon Public Art Gallery.

“As Greater Vernon continues to grow, so does the need to provide community spaces for connection and creativity. Bringing our two organizations together in the downtown core will create a hub for creative activity and exploration, which will benefit all aspects of our community.”

The RDNO board has approved a preliminary funding strategy for this project that proposes to use project timing to moderate the tax impact on Greater Vernon residents.

The project, which is based on a facility size of 58,000 square feet, has a total project budget of $40 million based on estimates that presume construction in 2020. The regional district has agreed to go to referendum for up to $25 million for the project, which is just $1.2 million more than the $23.8 million in debt that will come off of the books from the construction of Kal Tire Place and the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre by 2022.

“By timing this project with the elimination of the debt from Kal Tire Place and the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre, we can aim to complete this amazing community project while minimizing the impact on taxpayers,” said Bob Fleming, RDNO board chairperson.

While the ability to borrow will need to be approved through a referendum, the approval of the funding strategy will provide the community with the confidence to begin their fundraising efforts for the project.

The funding strategy for the project has been approved in principle, subject to the selection of the site and finalization of the project budget. It is proposed that the project funding be made up of $25 million from regional district borrowing, $6 million from infrastructure grants, $5 million through partnership contributions, and $4 million through fundraising and donations.

The regional district is now working with the community partners and the City of Vernon to evaluate sites for the facility. Once a site has been selected, the preliminary concept plan and budget can be adjusted for the site and taken out for public consultation, and a timeline for the project, including all funding requirements, can be developed.

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