It will cost a pretty penny to find the Nanaimo Art Gallery a new home, according to a feasibility study.
During a Nanaimo city council meeting Monday, Aug. 29, Louisa Plant, a manager with the consulting firm Nordicity, went before council to present the findings of an exploratory feasibility study conducted between October and June. The study marks the third and final phase of a plan previously approved by council nine years ago for facility development.
Nordicity reported a “crucial need” for a new and expanded Nanaimo Art Gallery, noting that the study found that the current space in inaccessible and faces “operational limitations” such as a lack of space.
As part of the study, several community engagement events were held between January and April, including a design charrette with the gallery’s staff, City of Nanaimo staff and community partners to plan the “functionality program for a future art gallery” and what the space must have. Based on the findings from the community engagement phase, Plant said they found the gallery would need between 18,000 to 25,000 square feet of space.
For the exploratory feasibility study, Plant said they worked with Iredale Architecture, based out of Victoria, on three possibilities: renovating the current space as is, constructing a new build at the same location, or constructing a new build at a non-site-specific greenfield location close to the downtown core.
“The architectural team found that renovating the current building is not a viable option and that it’s technically unfeasible due to numerous complicating factors,” said Plant.
Her presentation to council noted that renovating would be more costly than replacement with a more complicated and less functional floor plan, and that other concerns included seismic loading and problems with climate control requirements which would limit ongoing and future exhibits in the gallery.
The second option of demolishing and constructing a new building at the same location remained attractive for its downtown location, but would mean the gallery would have to relocate during construction, and the limited floor space would remain restricted at 18,000 square feet. Plant said the estimated cost would be $21 million.
However, the third option of finding a non-site specific greenfield space would not only cost approximately $1.5 million less, it was also favoured since the existing gallery could still operate during construction.
Following the presentation, Coun. Don Bonner asked if it’s known “who and how we’re going to pay for this” and if there were grant possibilities.
Art gallery executive director, Carolyn Holmes, said they were not at that stage yet, but hoped by this time next year they would be.
“Ideally, we would have funding from three levels of government for a project like this,” she said.