Will a new cultural centre that would house the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives and Vernon Public Gallery actually be situated in downtown Vernon on the old Coldstream Hotel site?
Or, will it be built on one of two other potential locations?
Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming said Monday during the regular meeting of city council the site for the new art gallery and museum had not been solidified, and that the former Vernon Civic Arena spot on 37th Avenue is one of the possible sites for consideration.
“Not THE site, but a possible site,” said Cumming, adding that “three significant sites are still potentially in play, and that a decision has not been made on where it will physically be located.”
The other two sites are the former Coldstream Hotel location and Polson Park.
Vernon council had been discussing the start of the planning process for the former Vernon Civic Arena site Monday with a park as the preferred and historic item to take over the spot where the arena stood for 80 years before being demolished.
Coun. Brian Quiring said the site may have a higher and better use at some point other than a park, and that he didn’t want to go too far down the park planning idea because he wanted to keep some options open.
That’s when Cumming made his comment about the three potential sites for the cultural centre.
A referendum put out to voters in October 2018’s municipal elections asked Greater Vernon residents to support the Regional District of North Okanagan borrowing up to $25 million to build a new centre in downtown Vernon, which passed by a margin of 7,850 in favour, and 5,367 voters against.
Throughout the buildup to the referendum, the site mentioned for the cultural centre was the southwest corner of 31st Avenue and 29th Street, the old Coldstream Hotel location, though other sites including the Civic and Polson Park had been considered.
“There hasn’t been a business plan,” said Cumming after Monday’s meeting. “That’s the first thing. And the business plan may tell us we may need more physical space outside as well as inside and this particular site (Coldstream Hotel) has limitations on overall space.”
Asked about the referendum being based on the Coldstream Hotel site, Cumming said he didn’t have a specific answer.
“This issue of site, this was the recommended site,” he said of the old hotel. “Now we’re into the business planning process which is happening at the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee (GVAC).
“I would be quite happy if the old Coldstream Hotel becomes the site. I’m not bringing energy here on alternative sites. I just know the next step needs to be taken based on what we understand from the business plan.”
GVAC chairperson, Vernon Coun. Akbal Mund, said, for now, the Coldstream Hotel remains the preferred site for the cultural centre.
“That does not mean that somebody who is a political member of one of the partners can not bring up another site,” said Mund, who is joined at the GVAC table by Cumming. “As it sits right now, that museum and cultural centre is going on the Coldstream Hotel site. There’s been nothing brought back that says we’re switching from that site.”
Said Vernon Public Art Gallery executive director Dauna Kennedy: “From the art gallery’s point of view, our choice has always been the Coldstream Hotel site.”
Mund said GVAC is in the process of hiring a project manager for the cultural centre, and hopes to have that in place by end of this month.