The city has not made a final decision on whether it will proceed with a proposal from the Vancouver Economic Commission to turn the former headquarters of the Vancouver Police Department into a technology centre.
City manager Penny Ballem told the Courier discussions continue with the commission about the possibility of renovating the 1954 building on Main Street to house a technology centre.
"This could fit the bill, or not," Ballem said. "Certainly, [the commission] has their eye on this and feel like it might be a good place. It's right in the middle of a hub of our technology start-ups."
Ballem's comments were in response to a Courier story posted online Monday in which Freedom of Information Act documents show the city and commission have corresponded on the idea for a "business development/tech centre" since August 2010.
The 267 pages of heavily redacted documents don't include a detailed plan of the commission's proposal, or whether the facility would be anchored by a tech giant. Some of the pages, which are primarily emails, indicate retail businesses could be an option for the main floor.
Ballem acknowledged a technology centre is a need identified in the commission's strategic plan and it fits the current zoning of the neighbourhood.
What's holding back any progress on the proposal is sorting out costs and the city's focus on developing a new community plan for the Downtown Eastside. In addition, the building has not been advertised on the open market to gauge whether any other businesses or associations would be keen on moving in and conducting renovations.
"We just don't have right now the capacity to do any kind of intensive developmental planning," Ballem said.
The FOI documents indicate it would cost $13.8 million to renovate the Main Street building to accommodate the commission's plan.
The reason the VPD began to move its officers in the fall of 2010 to a newer facility on Graveley Street near East First Avenue and Boundary Road was because of the building's poor condition.
"We would have zero intention of spending that," Ballem said of the $13.8 million cost.
She said the city would prefer to take a "minimalist approach" to renovating the building so it was usable and potentially generate income for the city.
At this point, it's unclear how a technology centre operated by an agency of the city-which the commission is and received more than $2 million from the city this year for its operations-would generate revenue for the city. Ballem and Mayor Gregor Robertson are directors of the commission.
The Courier left messages this week for the commission's CEO Lee Malleau and email requests with the commission's media relations person but none was returned before deadline.