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The current home of the Vancouver Art Gallery at Hornby and West Georgia Streets in Vancouver on March 3rd, 2010. (Simon Hayter For The Globe and Mail/Simon Hayter For The Globe and Mail)
The current home of the Vancouver Art Gallery at Hornby and West Georgia Streets in Vancouver on March 3rd, 2010. (Simon Hayter For The Globe and Mail/Simon Hayter For The Globe and Mail)

Culture

Vancouver delays decision on new site for art gallery Add to ...

A decision on whether the Vancouver Art Gallery can move to a vacant piece of land a few blocks from its current site is being delayed.

City council, which had been expected to deal with the proposed move before the end of the year, won't likely see a staff report on the issue until January, according to the city's general manager of community services, David McLellan.

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"It's a more complicated question than just should the gallery move from Point A to Point B," said City Councillor Heather Deal, who has been appointed by the mayor to take the lead on the issue for Vision Vancouver. Ms. Deal said various departments - including real estate, cultural services and finance - are working out issues regarding the site proposed by the VAG.

"It's just taking a little bit longer to make sure that everything's lined up and well understood before we have that recommendation on how to move forward from here. And hopefully that will be very early in the new year."

The VAG wants to build a new gallery on city-owned land at the old Larwill Park site, using the address 150 Dunsmuir. The VAG wants the entire site. But city officials have indicated that because of a $48-million encumbrance (money borrowed against that land to fund renovations at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre across the street), the VAG would need to share the space - likely with an office tower.

"That is still very much on the table," Ms. Deal said on Monday.

"There's been an expectation from the very beginning that this would be a shared site and that continues to be a consideration."

The delay was news to the VAG's director, Kathleen Bartels. "We were always hopeful we'd have a decision before the end of the year, and we continue to hope that will happen," she said.

Ms. Bartels has argued the VAG needs to move because its current location - a renovated courthouse at Robson Square - has only enough space to exhibit about 3 per cent of its permanent collection (which recently topped 10,000 works), no lecture theatre, and inadequate air-quality systems. The estimated cost for a new gallery is more than $300-million.

At public meetings, many people have spoken in favour of expanding the current site, but VAG officials say that would be costly and would force the gallery to close for a lengthy period.

Follow on Twitter: @marshalederman

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