Planned Vernon cultural centre will be 'reassessed' if funding goal not met

'More than sum of its parts'

If an "accelerated" fundraising campaign to build Vernon's much-delayed cultural centre doesn't bring in the hoped-for $13.9 million, the Regional District of North Okanagan will "reassess if the project will continue."

RDNO director Amanda Shatzko says the proposed building, the design of which will be revealed Friday, "is more than the sum of its parts."

However, she acknowledges that if the funding goal is not met by July 2024, "at that time, we will reassess if the project will continue based on the information collected up until that point."

In a discussion on the Vernon & Area Political Discussion Forum, Shatzko says the project "is the outcome of arts and cultural groups working together to create a vibrant community. The design that will be unveiled has spaces that will help tenants generate more revenue and visitors than before.

"This building also has space available for other groups to book and the public to use at any time of the day the building is open. It is meant to be a space that compliments the variety of dining, shopping, entertainment, and arts venues close by."

Shatzko describes the envisioned centre as a "community asset."

It would be located on the site of the downtown Vernon parking lot beside the Elks Hall.

The city has yet to say what will be done to address parking needs once construction begins, which has a target date of September 2025.

The cultural centre will house the Vernon Public Art Gallery and the Vernon Museum, as well as public lobby and event space.

Shatzko revealed the museum archives will remain at their current site in the Civic Plaza, while the exhibit space will be in the new building.

"This has been the museum's decision for a while.... They chose to concentrate their cultural centre space on exhibition spaces that use technology to showcase history alongside installations in creative ways," Shatzko said.

"If someone wishes to research archives, the same quiet spot at the current museum location will be available for visitors."

Shatzko notes the museum has digitally scanned and uploaded the majority of its archives, making them easier to access, and that "studies across Canada have shown that the days of only learning about history from static displays or archives are not what they used to be. Younger generations want interaction. That is what the museum is doing."

The current design of each space was designed with that in mind, says Shatzko.

Wednesday's announcement of the design reveal indicated a total project cost of $41.9 million.

Since its referendum approval in 2018, the project has been revised, downsized and seen multiple changes due to inflationary pressure. The fundraising drive seeks to return the project closer to the original vision through a combination of senior-level government grants, foundation contributions, and community fundraising, the RDNO said.

Revery Architecture will reveal the design Friday afternoon at the museum.

The announcement sparked debate online about separating the museum functions and even whether to continue at all with the project.

"While I was fully supportive of this project when I voted at the referendum, at this time I'm certainly unsure about whether this is the same facility I agreed to," said community advocate Dawn Tucker.

Meanwhile, the current museum, which opened in 1967, was closed for the summer after mould was discovered during renovation work.

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