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I have a soft spot for the Vancouver Art Gallery. It was founded at 1145 W. Georgia Street in 1931, and expanded to 1155 W. Georgia in 1951. The expansion's official opening was held the day I was born. The Gallery moved to its current location in the old court house in 1983. In the past few years I have done hundreds of hours of research in their library and archives, which has been fabulous. I love the building and its history, and have even been downstairs into the old holding cells for prisoners.

However, the quest for a new gallery has been endless and annoying, to say the least. Funding is one obvious issue, and the lack of it is now an embarassment. I think they made a serious mistake in not acquiring the Post Office building on Georgia Street. The building was PERFECT for the gallery:

1. already there, with full city block office levels (=share with every arts group in town)
2. direct drive-in semi-trailer access (=any show can be hosted)
3. huge overheight floor spaces designed for massive loads (=exhibition space)
4. vehicle parking / access directly on Georgia
5. huge lobby simply needing a reno
6. helipad on the roof
7. full square block roof deck (=massive roof parties)
8. capacity to build short tower on north end
9. existing infrastructure and servicing (power, water, etc)

So what happened? Seems the gallery wanted a whiz-bang brand-new world-class gallery to show off with, not another second-hand building. This led to a design with a price tag of around a half-billion dollars. Unfortunately, as the gallery looks for financial help, the developers show up ready for open-wallet surgery on civic funding. (p.s. and then watch the budget go from half a billion to one billion with hardly a blink, just like the trade and convention centre, the olympic village, and the hideously ugly re-roofing and lighting-up of BC Place.)

So, what is to be done? I get asked what I think about all this. I think they should do some constructive infill around the existing gallery. After all, now that the Mare has permanently closed Robson Street, why not just build a big blob right on top of it? Duh. Easy. Folks standing under it wouldn't need an umbrella. Perfect Vancouver city planning.

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