City of Vernon approves sale of downtown land to RDNO for new cultural centre

Cultural centre land sale

A new cultural centre in downtown Vernon is one step closer to reality.

Following Monday's council meeting, councillors returned to an in-camera meeting and passed a resolution to declassify its commitment to the development of the centre, by directing staff to complete the sale of land on the so-called Vernon Block to the Regional District of North Okanagan.

The sale will facilitate construction of the facility on the property at 2910 32nd Ave., which is currently used as a parking lot.

“A lot of good work has gone into the cultural centre project recently,” Mayor Victor Cumming says in a press release. “In the last few months, elected officials and staff from the City of Vernon, the District of Coldstream, and Electoral Areas B and C have had a series of productive meetings to move the project forward. Finalizing the land sale agreement is a critical step in seeing this regional facility come to life, and we are pleased to finally be at this stage of the process.”

During Monday's meeting, council directed staff to sell and transfer up to one half of the city-owned block (approximately 33,000 square feet) to the RDNO, at the fair market value of $75 per square foot (or $2,475,000 for 33,000 square feet).

The price was established by a third party, independent appraisal.

Vernon, Coldstream, and Areas B and C are funding partners through the RDNO, and each pays a proportionate amount of costs associated with regional services. 

“What’s important for our residents to understand is that the City of Vernon has already purchased the Vernon Block land and has invested a considerable amount of time and funding to prepare the site for future development, such as off-site works,” said Cumming.

“We are not asking Vernon taxpayers to purchase the land a second time. Rather, our partners in Coldstream and Areas B and C will need to pay their portion of the land cost (31.4 per cent).”

Greater Vernon taxpayers previously approved borrowing of up to $25 million for the project in a referendum.

The centre is expected to cost $40 million, and federal/provincial grants will be sought to help fund it.

Still on the table is whether the second half of the block will be used as a public park. While the city considers that idea, work on the planned City Centre Park on the old Civic Arena grounds has been placed on hold until mid-October while the city considers the alternative location.

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