Westside Church confirms purchase of Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts

Goh Ballet's annual Nutcracker production a go

A church negotiating to buy the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts says it will finalize the deal in August and will consider continuing to rent the space for performances.

Westside Church also confirmed the Goh Ballet's annual performance of the Nutcracker will go ahead in December, despite owners of the Centre earlier cancelling the ballet company's contract.

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"We are pleased that this worked out and wish them nothing but the best as they carry on this great Christmas tradition," said lead pastor Norm Funk in an email to the Courier.

Funk said the "due diligence period" of a sales agreement with the Centre has expired and he is looking forward to a more permanent home for the church once the deals closes in August.

"We are investigating our ability to rent out the Centre in the future with many considerations being worked through now such as, but not limited to, ongoing weekly needs and the refurbishing of some interior space taking place in early fall," Funk wrote. "However, we want all to know that we love Vancouver and the arts community in it and as part of this great city are looking forward to seeing the Centre used in all manner of ways, including assisting with the performing and visual arts. More information will be forthcoming in the weeks and months ahead pertaining to this specific question."

Funk didn't reveal the cost of the Centre at 777 Homer St., which was purchased for $7.5 million in 2001 by Four Brothers Entertainment. The total value of the land and building was assessed at $9.3 million this year.

As the Courier reported May 7, three anonymous donors have contributed more than one-third towards the purchase price of the theatre, which opened in 1995 and cost more than $25 million to build.

City council recently passed a motion to have city staff examine what it could do to keep the church from cancelling events scheduled this year at the venue.

The motion, which was introduced by NPA Coun. Elizabeth Ball, also called for city staff to see whether it has any power to ensure the new owner continues to use the venue for arts and culture.

When told of Funk's promise to consider continuing to use the Centre for performances, Ball said it was "a great leap forward" and believes concerns raised from the arts community, council and an online petition to "save the Centre" were helpful in getting a message to the church.

"I think a whole lot of people recognized what was important here," Ball said.

Ball noted the church will likely apply for "a change of use" for the venue because churches don't pay taxes. She said city staff could set certain requirements around the change of use agreement, including continued use of the Centre for arts and culture events.

The Vancouver Film Festival was to open this year's 16-day festival this fall at the Centre. But, like the Goh ballet, was told by the Centre's owners that its contract was cancelled.

The Courier left messages for director Chan Hon Goh of the Goh Ballet and Alan Franey of the film festival but were not returned before this story was posted online.

Westside Church, which began in 2005, has an office on Broadway and outgrew its service space on West Fifth Avenue in 2010. It now offers services at the Arts Club's Granville Island Stage theatre and at the Park and Tilford Cineplex Odeon Theatre on the North Shore.

Westside also started the Reality Church on the East Side in 2009 and will open Christ City Church in south Vancouver in the fall, according to Funk.

Westside combines conservative theology with a hip, hi-tech approach to church organization and worship and is popular with young people.

A Courier feature story on the church in May 2012 examined the church's teachings against abortion, pre-marital sex, divorce and the ordination of women.

mhowell@vancourier.com

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