Plans for new $40-million Vernon cultural facility move forward

Click to play video: 'Vernon cultural facility headed to referendum'
Vernon cultural facility headed to referendum
Watch Above: There are few people that would question that the museum and art gallery in Vernon could benefit from new facilities. The big question is how much Vernon taxpayers are willing to pay to upgrade the facilities. As Megan Turcato reports, a referendum will soon be held to provide that answer – May 24, 2018

Vernon could be getting a new cultural hub.

The plan to build a new cultural center that would house both the Vernon museum and the art gallery took another step forward.

The Regional District of North Okanagan announced this week it has come up with a plan for how to pay for the project which officials expect to cost $40-million.

READ MORE: Vernon art gallery mounts exhibition in shipping containers

“We are finally moving forward on a project that we have been waiting for for quite some time so we are very excited,” said Dauna Kennedy, executive director of the Vernon Public Art Gallery.

“It will give us access to exhibitions and stuff from national galleries…that we simply can’t bring in for the community to see at this point because we don’t have the proper facility to protect traveling exhibitions.”

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The regional district plans to get more than half of the funds for the new cultural centre, $25-million, from borrowing which will require a referendum.

It is hoping the borrowing question can be put on the ballot during this fall’s civic elections.

The rest of the funds are expected to come from infrastructure grants, donations and partnerships with other governments or corporations.

“If we can get up to $25-million approved [in a borrowing referendum], it is a lot easier to access grants when those other levels of government see there is commitment at the local level,” said Juliette Cummingham, chair of the regional district’s Greater Vernon Advisory Committee.
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The regional district said the cost estimate is based on construction in 2020.

The borrowing plan comes as the regional district moves closer to paying off the debt from two other large infrastructure projects; Kal Tire Place and the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre. That debt is expected to be paid off by 2022.

With the other debt about to be paid off, officials are hoping that the new borrowing initiative for the cultural centre can be done without taxpayers having to pay significantly more.

No specific site has been chosen for the centre. The four potential locations, including the site of the Civic Arena and the current museum location, are all in downtown Vernon.

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