Concept drawing by James Dodd of what the exterior of a new West Shore arts centre may look like.

Spotlight on the Arts: Where (and how) would it be built?

Part 2 in our series on a West Shore arts centre, in which we look at site options and the challenges of funding such a facility

Colwood is working towards a new performing arts facility, but they aren’t the only one.

The municipality’s commitment has yielded a 148-page feasibility study and a citizen steering committee looking at possible destinations for a West Shore performing arts centre within Colwood. However, the question of where, remains unanswered to date, and Langford Mayor Stew Young said his municipality is asking the same questions.

The Colwood study pointed to Royal Bay Village as a preferred site. But Young said Langford residents have also expressed a strong interest in building an arts facility in their community, which leads to the question of whether there could there be a partnership, or even two new performing arts facilities on the West Shore.

“(This) is on the people of the West Shore’s wish list … people (are saying) they wanted to have a theatre of some sort,” Young said. “We will build one … This is a good-sized community for these types of things and we have to build for them. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”

Langford council has a proven track record for being developer-friendly. The forthcoming YM-YWCA and partnerships with Rugby Canada, the Canadian national cycling team and the purchase of a recreation centre on Bear Mountain are only a few examples of their willingness to grow. With that in mind, Young said, a new arts facility is absolutely on his agenda and the planning has already begun.

“We would like to tag it onto a public facility so the infrastructure cost can be shared, so we are not building a standalone thing with a parking lot,” he said. “I can tell you right now you will see something happen. What I like to do in Langford is to set a goal; it’s always good to have. I think we are at the right time that it is attainable and we can do it.”

Young said maximizing every dollar spent by combining it with an existing facility is an important key to the project. He pointed to shared parking and facilities, used by the different functions at different times of the day, as one way to drive the price down for Langford taxpayers and make such a venue more viable in the long run.

“There are not many places to go where you have a choice for a dry arena, (golf) putting, a skating rink, a field, and the pool. How great would it be to have another arena and an arts and culture centre? That would be a great capping of a great corridor Langford has built,” he said. “We will do it in a cost effective way where taxes don’t get impacted and would be on a great new facility to use for the next 100 years.”

Langford staff and council are looking into the costs to build and operate such a facility and are researching what has worked in other similar-sized communities, Young said.

While it appears to duplicate the work already completed by Colwood, he said council is open to partnership, but is prepared to go on their own.

“There is nothing wrong with two arts centres within a community that will have a (larger community) one day. In Victoria, you have the McPherson and Royal Theatre. We will build as long as it is cost-effective, and partner with anyone that wants to, whether it be Colwood or View Royal,” he said.

“If Colwood wants to partner, absolutely, but right now (we are) spearheading and getting all the information and working on this now. There is always going to be opportunity for co-operation as the group moves forward. It will be a public process. (However) we have to move ahead; that is what the public has said (and) we will take the lead on this.”

So, after a decade of uncertainty, not one, but two municipalities appear focused on creating a West Shore performing and visual arts facility. As Colwood’s citizen steering committee chair Catharine Chase points out, it’s not just about any one municipality, but about the entire community.

“This is why we are calling it the West Shore performing arts centre. Because what we envision is a facility that will invite visitors, performers and audiences from all over, not just the south end of the Island,” she said. “This will be something tourists will be interested in; performers, actors – something for the whole community for the West Shore and beyond.”

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