The South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre has secured a little more time to get something moving for the empty lot at the corner of Nanaimo and Ellis, but city council’s indulgence is wearing thin.
Several of the councillors agreed that the idea of a performing arts centre was a good idea, but questioned whether any progress was being made.
“How is this request different from the last time you presented to us, or the time before that? I would love to see something moving forward, but I feel the same request is coming forward again and again. I’ve heard of this symposium for years now,” said Coun. Max Picton.
City staff recommended that council hold the property until March 31, 2019, allowing the SOPAC group time to coordinate and implement a symposium regarding a proposed new facility and report back to council.
This is similar to past requests to hold the property, vacant for about a decade since Nanaimo Hall was torn down, for their specific use.
Allan Markin, representing SOPAC, said council’s support through dedicating the land was vital to progress.
“We are, to some extent, making the same presentation. We are waiting for public expression of the council’s support for the project,” said Markin. “We need that to move ahead. Without council’s endorsement in principle, we can not go out and make a case with donors and other supporters.
“The symposium in itself has now been fleshed out in detail. It will give us a clear statement of where we are going to go.”
Coun. Judy Sentes said all agree the vision is wonderful, but the lack of progress is frustrating.
“I am not seeing we’ve made much progress in these many years,” said Sentes. However, she supported the staff recommendation, since it set out a limited time frame for something to be accomplished.
“I think it addresses the concern of council that it is not going to be open-ended, it is not going to be forever. I think council’s patience is being tested.”
Coun. Helena Konanz questioned how much support the project had, and asked that when they return, she see more evidence of that.
“I am hoping you can fill up this council chamber with people who are supportive of this project,” said Konanz. “I think that is one of my hesitations. I am just not sure how many people are behind it.”
Coun. Campbell Watt also questioned the support but from a financial viewpoint, saying that he hoped SOPAC wouldn’t be looking for city funds for their symposium.
“The red flag that will go up for me will be that if you can’t raise the funds for a $50,000 symposium,” how are you going to raise the funds so you can actually build the building,” said Watt.
Council voted 5-3 to give SOPAC until 2019, with Coun. Andre Martin and Picton voting against.