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Voters approve Vernon cultural centre in referendum

The Vernon Public Art Gallery is currently located underneath a parkade. The location has created lots of challenges related to preserving its collection including leaks and floods. Megan Turcato / Global News

On election night, voters in greater Vernon passed a referendum to borrow $25 million for a new multi-purpose cultural facility in downtown Vernon.

It means the plan to build the new center that would house both the Vernon museum and the art gallery took another step towards reality.

The referendum results were 7,850 in favour, and 5,357 against.

The total project is expected to cost $40-million. The rest of the funds will come from infrastructure grants, donations and partnerships with other governments or corporations.

READ MORE: Vernon art gallery mounts exhibition in shipping containers

“This is going to be a total transformation for Greater Vernon and we are so excited to see it happen,” said Dauna Kennedy, executive director of the Vernon Public Art Gallery.

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“It is going to be a catalyst for transformation in the downtown…It is going to be a hub for the community it is going to create that vibrancy in the downtown core. We just can’t wait to be a part of it.”

Kennedy said the art gallery will start putting together its capital campaign for the project.

She is hoping even those who voted against borrowing for the project get involved with the development as it moves forward.

“I think it is an opportunity now to all come together. We are doing this for the community,” Kennedy said.

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.

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

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.

The Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) said Vernon city council has identified the 2900 block between 31st Avenue and 32nd Avenue as the best place for the proposed facility.

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