Projected cultural centre cost overruns causing consternation in Vernon arts community

Click to play video: 'More funding needed for Greater Vernon Cultural Centre'
More funding needed for Greater Vernon Cultural Centre
While construction of the new cultural centre in Vernon is still over a year and a half away from its proposed start date, the designs for the $41.9-million project were recently unveiled, but as Jayden Wasney reports, with rising costs of materials, the Regional District of North Okanagan has a significant challenge ahead. – Dec 11, 2023

Construction of a new cultural centre in Vernon, B.C., is a year and a half away but there are concerns that plans for the multi-million-dollar facility may offer some challenges, city officials say.

The 31,000-square-foot cultural centre is slated to be built in downtown Vernon at the former site of the Coldstream Motor Inn and by all accounts it’s an impressive build.

“You know what, it feels amazing to be able to see the design,” Amanda Shatzko, a director with the Regional District of the North Okanagan, said.

“It’s done by a world-class and renowned architect Revery, and they actually specialize in cultural buildings, and the public seems to be quite excited about it.”

The four-storey building will be home to the Museum and Archives of Vernon, the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre and the Vernon Public Art Gallery.

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“The centre will provide a multi-purpose space with seating capacity for 150 people, and the entry of the building has this beautiful space where the public can come in,” Shatzko said.

“We’re calling it the cultural commons. It’s a space where people can meet up with friends and enjoy the environment with a coffee or just take a break from their day.”

It will also expand the reach of the arts community, allowing them to borrow from different national art galleries.

But challenges linger.

Click to play video: '‘World renowned’ architecture firm signs on to Vernon project'
‘World renowned’ architecture firm signs on to Vernon project

The project, originally set to come at a price tag of just under $42 million, was approved in a referendum in 2018. However, rising costs of materials have led to a need for more funding.

“We need to raise $13.9 million, and we have launched a capital campaign, which is expected to include funding from the federal and provincial government as well as other grants from community fundraising,” Shatzko said.

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The RDNO is also collecting donations, but if the fundraising target isn’t met by July 1, 2024, that will spell greater trouble.

“It is estimated that the project can cost and will have increases by $167,000 a month beyond that start date, so ideally we’re going to try to hit that target,” Shatzko said.

Click to play video: '$28-million loan approved for Greater Vernon Cultural Centre'
$28-million loan approved for Greater Vernon Cultural Centre

The executive director of the Vernon Public Art Gallery Dauna Kennedy said the uncertainty of the project is a little overwhelming. Still, she is hopeful that the fundraising goal will be reached.

“That does fall to us, so it does cause me a bit of anxiety, but you know, this project, we’ve done a lot of the background work and we’ve been building these relationships over time, so I think the community is ready.”

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