On Monday evening, members of the Squamish artistic community gathered to discuss the future home of arts and culture on the 60-acre oceanfront lands at a meeting held at the Squamish Arts Council (SAC) building.
The meeting was led by Krisztina Egyed, chair of the Squamish Arts Council, Trevor Dunn of the Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation and Squamish Mayor Greg Gardner.
Dunn presented detailed drawings of the site to a packed house, pointing out the future artistic hubs and emphasizing that it is "critical" that the local arts community is involved in the development of the area. Afterwards, Egyed countered with a list of 10 of the SAC's concerns about the site plans.
The long-term plans for the oceanfront lands are to include a permanent performing arts facility on the west side of the southernmost tip of the site, the seven and a half-acre Oceanfront Beach & Park. However, there were significant concerns raised by members of the arts community over the location and proposed size of the facility, which would seat just 250 people. They pointed out that the proposed facility would lack the scale and features necessary to make it a draw for high-calibre performances, which would, in turn, draw international tourists to the area. It would also be situated near the shipping terminal, which would present problems with noise.
Dunn explained that planners had looked at a number of potential sites for the arts facility, but found this was the best possible option. Regarding the size of the building, he explained that they had surveyed stakeholders and investigated neighbouring communities like Whistler and Pemberton when setting aside space for the performing arts facility, determining that a 250-person venue was all that the community required.
Afterwards, Egyed said the capacity "is not set in stone," but pointed out that the arts community would have to present a case that a larger space would be utilized.
Dunn also presented plans for creating a more immediate home for the local arts community, pitching the idea of the SAC taking over the 10,000 to 15,000 square-foot "blue barn" already located on the oceanfront lands. The building currently houses a water treatment plant that has been used to treat mercury. The SODC has made an application to the Ministry of Environment to decommission the building and remediate the site at a cost of approximately $300,000 to ensure it is safe for public use.
"In the meantime, what we're asking the community to do is really help us understand how the community can use this place," Dunn said.
"We see a huge benefit to the arts community potentially being down there, so especially if the costs aren't absolutely outrageous, we think it's definitely worthwhile."