City of Victoria hopes to restore historic building as arts hub


WATCH: The arts community in Victoria is one of many feeling the pinch from rising housing costs — and the city is hoping to change that by restoring one of its historic buildings as an arts hub. Kori Sidaway has more.

One of the oldest buildings in Victoria may be looking at a reinvention.

An 1888 sketching of 28 Bastion Square (BC Royal Museum/Archives)

28 Bastion Square opened as a courthouse in 1888 and stands as the oldest post-confederation courthouse leaving the city centre due to soaring real estate prices.

“We watch what happens in the Lower Mainland with artists, and Victoria is no different,” Matthew Payne, director of Theatre Skam.

Theatre Skam is one of those local troops that’s felt the pinch of expensive real estate and the lack of venues in the city.

Innovative use of space to create a theatre in the back of a pickup truck (Theatre Skam)

They’ve been forced to bounce from place to place, even resorting to performing from the back of a pickup truck.

But the city says it’s been listening and through this project, is working on a possible solution.

“One of the things that we really heard loud and clear is the need for affordable and accessible art spaces and creative spaces,” Nichola Reddington, City of Victoria’s senior cultural planner.

The project is still in the pre-development stage, but the plan is to convert the former Maritime Museum building into a multi-media arts hub with spaces for workshops, studios, exhibits and performances.

The varied set up is intended to create a space that can facilitate a cross-pollination of ideas between artists and mediums. Payne says this is something that he’s looking forward to.

“Having a collaborative space where the community comes to know as a place they can go to find different arts groups would be quite beneficial, ” Payne said.

While the proposal will be brought in front of city council on Thursday for an information update, everyone remains optimistic.

“We’re just really excited about the possibilities and opportunities for this space to be reused, it’s been sitting empty since 2014, and it’s part of our old town, part of our tourism district, and it’s a beautiful building,” Reddington said.

But they’ve got their work cut out for them. According to a statement from the provincial government’s Ministry of Citizen Services, the building needs up to $12 million in repairs and rehabilitation to restore it to base building standards. That doesn’t include any modifications or upgrades needed before anyone moves in.


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