Help decide the location of West Vancouver's new Ambleside Arts and Culture Centre

·5 min read

The District of West Vancouver is calling on the public to help them decide where the new Ambleside Arts and Culture Centre should be built.

The creation of a new multimillion-dollar arts centre for the district, which has a thriving arts and culture community but aging facilities, has been talked about for more than two decades and is finally inching closer to becoming a reality.

The two district-owned locations on the table for a 25,000-square-foot arts centre are both at Ambleside Park. The first option is the tennis courts site at Marine Drive and 13th Street and the second is the south parking lot adjacent to the waterfront near Argyle Avenue.

Council set the wheels in motion for a new arts centre back in 2018 after a community engagement process for the development of an arts and culture strategy highlighted a dire need for new arts facilities.

Since then, council created the arts facilities advisory committee, which has taken the lead in identifying the existing needs of arts and culture activities in West Vancouver and developing a facilities plan.

As part of their work, the committee reviewed more than 20 potential sites, both district owned and privately owned, for a new arts centre and has presented their recommendations twice to council.

An option to include the arts facility in a proposed mixed-use development on the 1400 block of Marine Drive (north side) without any capital cost burden to the district was also explored, but the density that would have been needed to cover the costs of the facility was not supported by council.

The two park options have been explored in an analysis report and the district is now calling on residents to take part in a survey to help them choose the location.

Pros and cons were highlighted for both sites, but they're fairly similar.

The tennis courts spot is noted as being a good size to support a two-storey consolidated community arts and culture facility with two levels of underground parking, that would have a strong visual prominence and street presence in an easily accessible location close to other arts organizations.

The overall project would cost an estimated $38,087,000.

“Its unique advantage compared to the other sites is that it is in close proximity to both the natural setting of the waterfront and Ambleside Park, and the commercial and residential areas of Ambleside Village Centre,” the analysis states.

“The natural setting provides an ambience that an arts facility warrants and arguably needs, while the Ambleside Village Centre provides considerable pedestrian, vehicle, and transit traffic. As well, the Ambleside Village Centre area contains many arts organizations such as the Ferry Building Gallery, Pandora’s Vox & Espiritu Vocal Ensemble, Music Gallery, Bella Ceramica, West Vancouver Dance Conservatory, and 4Cats Arts Studio.”

The downfalls for the tennis court site include the cost of the creation of the underground parking, which would be around 40 per cent of the total project cost. There would also be a potential architectural challenge when it comes to distinctly separating the Community Arts and Culture Facility and the Art Museum. Plus, there’s a slight extra cost to relocate the tennis courts within Ambleside Park south.

Option 2, at the south parking lot, would see an art centre built directly adjacent to the waterfront and south of the rail line and Spirit Trail. This site would also support a two-storey consolidated community arts and culture facility but it would only have one level of underground parking.

The plan comes in almost $4 million dollars cheaper than option one, at $34,291,000.

Highlights mentioned were that the facility would maximize views and visibility from pedestrians along the seawall and beach, and offered the potential for creative architecture resulting in an iconic facility in an attractive natural setting.

“Arts and culture activities would be well supported here due to the proximity of the site to commercial and residential areas of the Ambleside Village Centre,” the analysis stated. “Visitors of Ambleside Park would have to go out of their way not to notice the facility, and a good portion of pedestrian, vehicle and transit traffic from Ambleside Village Centre is expected to spillover onto this site.

“While this site is not as close to arts and culture organizations and facilities as the tennis court site, the proximity difference is minimal.”

Downfalls included the location being south of the railroad which would reduce accessibility and that the development would require the reconfiguration of Argyle Avenue and underground utilities, plus it would mean the loss of the car park currently at the site.

During a discussion at the April 12 general council meeting, Mayor Mary-Ann Booth said she wanted the location chosen to be “the best site to draw the most visitors, to be the most enjoyable for a community as a gathering hub, and to showcase all the talent we have here and around the world.”

Once a site is selected, the district will conduct a more detailed facility plan and then develop cost projections. The district states that the operating costs for a new facility would be partially offset by the discontinued operation of three existing buildings being used for arts programming.

A report summarizing the findings from the community engagement will be presented to council on July 26.

Residents have until June 16 to take part in the survey.

Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News