Anton advocates moving museum downtown

Art gallery operators eye Cambie Street location

NPA mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton is proposing to move the Museum of Vancouver to the current Vancouver Art Gallery site after the new gallery is built on a former downtown bus depot property.

The museum is located in Vanier Park. In a speech Wednesday to announce the NPA's entire policy platform, Anton suggested it wasn't a popular destination. She believes locating the museum downtown would attract more visitors. "Do you know I was in a room full of people talking this morning and I asked them how many had been to the Museum of Vancouver- not one person had been there," Anton said from the NPA's downtown campaign office.

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When asked by reporters after her speech how much such a move would cost, Anton responded saying it was a long-term plan and would be helped by a so-called Vancouver Arts and Culture Infrastructure Fund and a Vancouver Arts and Culture Endowment Fund. The NPA's plan for arts and culture involves using community amenity contributions paid by developers to support capital investments and help with operating costs of such city institutions as the museum.

Anton's announcement came on the heels of proposing to give the Vancouver Art Gallery development rights on a former bus depot site at 688 Cambie St. that would achieve "a revenue-generating endowment" and repay $40 million owed to the city as part of a complicated deal involving renovations to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

In January, city council agreed to give the art gallery up to two years to present a business case for the Cambie property to the city that takes into consideration the expectations of the city to recover the $40 million.

The operators of the gallery want to move to the Cambie Street site because they say the current building on Robson Street is too small. The estimated cost of a new art gallery is $300 million, with the provincial agreement agreeing to pay for at least $50 million of the tab.

The museum proposal was one of the few new announcements Anton made Wednesday, having rolled out several policies over the past month. She summarized many of them, including the NPA's plan for affordable housing and homelessness. "The NPA housing plan recognizes that market-based solutions to housing supply are the only effective means of creating real affordability," she said. "Everything else is a gimmick."

Vision Vancouver responded to the NPA's housing plan by issuing a statement shortly after the press conference, saying Anton was "out of touch" on affordable housing. Vision Coun. Kerry Jang, who is seeking re-election, said the NPA's plan is not credible. "Suzanne Anton thinks that city hall's only role is to get out of the way of the free market," Jang said. "Mayor Gregor Robertson and the Vision team strongly disagree. The affordability crisis in Vancouver is not going to be solved by a city hall that buries its head in the sand while people are priced out of the city."

Vision's housing plans include implementing the city's 10-year affordable housing and homelessness plan to create and enable 38,000 units of housing, continue with its program to build rental housing by providing developers incentives and supporting renters by creating a rental landlord base.

Though Vision has been successful in lobbying the provincial government to open winter shelters, this is the first winter since Robertson was elected that Housing Minister Rich Coleman declined to continue the funding.

The election is Nov.19.

Twitter: @Howellings

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