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Ferry Building
September 8, 2011

Arts in Ambleside proposal to build a 28,000 square foot art gallery in two buildings on the Ferry Building site.


In mid July 2011, an arts group appeared before Council with a proposal to build a very large art gallery of 28,000 square feet on The Ferry Building site. Including the Hollyburn Sailing Cub, the total size of the site is about 47,000 square feet, so that the proposed buildings of 28,000 square feet would have dwarfed the public space and would have led to the removal or destruction of the Ferry Building, dating to 1913, one of our three designated heritage sites in West Vancouver. Moreover the waterfront site itself has great heritage value and is a public space much enjoyed by people from West Vancouver and elsewhere. This "Guggenheim on Ambleside Landing," threatened to block views from Argyle, Bellevue and Marine Drive, to an extent far beyond that experienced earlier by the centennial clock at the foot of 15th street.

The West Vancouver Historical Society directors decided to oppose this project and named Ann Brousson, Pam Dalik, Jim Carter, Rod Day and Rob Morris, to speak on its behalf. In the meantime another group, led by John Seddon, began to collect petitions against the project. By early October they had collected over 1200 signatures.

In the WVHS meeting of September 8, Rod Day reported that he had met with Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones who stated that the project was for discussion purposes only. The same thought was expressed by Brent Leigh, assistant CAO, in his remarks to the Parks Master Plan Working Group September 6. The Mayor suggested that the WVHS group meet with Merla Beckerman and representatives of the arts group, which took place on September 19. The group met with the Mayor the next morning, in which it was agreed that the proposal to build an arts facility on the site would be withdrawn. The Mayor asked Rod to appear before the Council meeting of October 3 to outline our objection to the proposal and to make ' suggestions for possible solutions to the issue.

Rod and Rob Morris made a presentation to Council October 3. Rob talked about the site "as hallowed ground" of inestimable value to the community. Rod suggested the formation of two working groups, one to examine the zoning from the waterfront lands between 13th and 18th streets (some of which is zoned commercial and residential) and to seek a suitable site for a new art gallery in the Ambleside area, but not on the waterfront.

In the Council meeting of October 3, Mayor Goldsmith-Jones announced that "a new large, waterfront arts facility is off the table". "We have certainly reaffirmed this whole community's love of the waterfront and appreciation for councils of the last 40 years for acquisition of those waterfront lands." (North Shore News October 12). Council decided to ask Brent Leigh to write a staff report for the meeting of November 7 to summarize public input and to point the way to future planning for the waterfront and for an arts facility.