Canada’s largest donation to an art gallery planned for the new Vancouver Art Gallery building

A monumental donation to the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) to cover the cost of building its new home in Larwill Park in downtown Vancouver will be announced in less than 24 hours.

VAG says it will host an event on Thursday to announce details and proceed with the “signing of the official gift agreement,” which has been touted by art gallery officials as the “largest cash donation to an art gallery of Canadian history “.

In addition, tomorrow’s event will include the unveiling of a vague “new design”.

There are very few details available at this time.

The donation to be announced will be larger than the $ 40 million donation from Christian Chan’s family to the new VAG building announced in January 2019, which at the time brought the combined private and public fundraising efforts of the VAG to a total of $ 135 million.

The total sum includes $ 50 million from a provincial government commitment in 2008 and $ 45 million from the private sector and other personal sources.

For its contribution, the City of Vancouver donated the required land, approximately two-thirds of the Larwill Park block, under a nominal 99-year lease. The remaining third of the block is temporarily used as modular housing, but the city intends to develop it into commercial office towers as a revenue-generating mechanism. The available footprint of VAG’s Larwill Park is at the northeast corner of Cambie Street and West Georgia Street.

Larwill Park is subdivided into two lots: colored red for the new Vancouver Art Gallery, and colored blue for the office towers. (City of Vancouver)

Vancouver Art Gallery

Artistic rendering of the January 2019 final design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery building. (Herzog & de Meuron / Vancouver Art Gallery)

Vancouver Art Gallery

Artistic rendering of the January 2019 final design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery building. (Herzog & de Meuron / Vancouver Art Gallery)

Based on the description, the VAG’s inbound donation is believed to be north of the Thomson family’s $ 70 million cash donation – known for being owned by Reuters – for major art gallery expansion. from Toronto Ontario designed by Frank Gehry.

This 2002 contribution from the Thomson family was matched with their in-kind donation of $ 300 million from the value of 2,000 private works of art, bringing their initial offering to $ 370 million. They later supplemented their initial donation with an additional $ 30 million in cash, which increased their total contribution to a final tally of $ 400 million in combined cash and in-kind. The contribution was a legacy from Kenneth Roy Thomson II, who died two years before the expansion opened.

There are also deep pockets in British Columbia for such a giveaway – mainly those that have made big waves in local real estate.

Ian Gillespie of Westbank takes center stage, given his very public affinity for unique art and architecture, evidenced by his company’s works – everything from Vancouver House and its Spinning Chandelier to the skyline of the towers who will train Senakw in the transformation of Oakridge Center (recently renamed Oakridge Park).

Gillespie’s business also has significant assets in the immediate vicinity of the new VAG site, with the nearly completed Deloitte Summit office tower just to the north and the Creative Energy steam plant just around the corner of the kitten’s future gallery. art. Approved plans for a modernized steam plant include a new office tower that complements BC Place Stadium.

A unique partnership that covers a substantial portion of the cost of construction while allowing Gillespie to design and build the new art gallery is not out of the question. This could perhaps be related to the development of office towers planned by the City of Vancouver at the north end of the Larwill Park site.

Deloitte Summit 400 West Georgia Street

Progress on construction of the Deloitte Summit Westbank office tower at 400 West Georgia Street, as of January 15, 2021 (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

720 Beatty Street Vancouver Creative Energy

Artistic rendering of the future Westbank office tower 720 Beatty Street, Vancouver. Perspective of Larwill Park. (Bjarke Ingels Group / HCMA Architecture & Design / Westbank)

Chip Wilson has also shown an interest in art and has made important real estate pieces in the area since leaving Lululemon.

Vancouver is also home to two families who each have an NHL team.

The Aquilini family, owners of the Vancouver Canucks, operate a growing real estate business under the management of umbrella company Aquilini Investment Group.

The Dallas Stars are owned by the Gaglardi family, whose assets are owned by Northland Properties, including restaurant chains Denny’s Canada, Moxie’s Bar & Grill, Shark Club, Chop and CRAFT Beer Market, as well as the Sandman hotel chain, Grouse Mountain Resort, and Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

Terry Hui of Concord Pacific can also be seen as a possibility.

Jim Pattison’s conglomerate empire funded some of the largest private donations ever made in British Columbia. Still, his donations are mostly for healthcare projects, including $ 75 million for the new St. Paul’s Hospital at False Creek Flats.

Vancouver Art Gallery

Artistic rendering of the January 2019 final design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery building. (Herzog & de Meuron / Vancouver Art Gallery)

Vancouver Art Gallery

Artistic rendering of the January 2019 final design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery building. (Herzog & de Meuron / Vancouver Art Gallery)

Vancouver Art Gallery

Artistic rendering of the January 2019 final design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery building. (Herzog & de Meuron / Vancouver Art Gallery)

Although a substantial donation is forthcoming, the new VAG building has likely faced increases in construction costs, based on the recent escalation in market prices for materials and labor.

In 2015, the VAG unveiled a 230-foot-high stacked wooden box concept, designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron and Vancouver architect Perkins + Will, with an area of ​​310,000 square feet. , including 85,000 square feet of exhibition space. In addition, there would be significant accessible public spaces on the ground floor.

Six years ago, the cost of construction was estimated at $ 330 million, and an additional $ 50 million has been targeted as an endowment for long-term O&M costs. This was based on construction starting in 2019 for completion in 2023.

For years, the VAG hoped to receive an additional $ 50 million from the provincial government and a contribution of $ 100 million from the federal government. However, Ottawa’s contribution depends on Victoria’s approval.

Critical reception to Herzog & de Meuron’s design has been generally mixed. Some have suggested previously that this does not stimulate the inspiration for the support needed from the general public to help with fundraising efforts.

In early 2021, Business In Vancouver reported that plans for the new building had been scaled back to reduce construction costs, with floor space reduced from 310,000 to 270,000 square feet and other changes such as the reduction of the height of the ceilings and the elimination of the engulfed public. garden. It will be clear on Thursday whether these changes represent the “new design” or whether the design has been scrapped for an entirely new concept.

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