The Central Park Building shortly after it was built in 1924. (Bulkley Valley Museum collection)

The Central Park Building shortly after it was built in 1924. (Bulkley Valley Museum collection)

Council lukewarm on proposed changes to Central Park building

Users of the building want more accessibility and envision a major renovation

The tenants of the almost century old Central Park Building would like to renovate it but the landlord isn’t so sure yet.

The Central Park Building Society, Smithers Art Gallery and the Bulkley Valley Museum wrote a letter last month to town council asking for their support in applying for a grant to see if upgrades are possible.

The application requests funds for a feasibility study that will examine options for an addition or alteration to the back (non-heritage designed) side of the building.

The study would explore options for accessibility upgrades to the building, primarily an elevator to the second floor as there isn’t one now.

It would also look into options for the addition of an accessible studio space on the second floor where third-floor tenants could meet with students and clients with accessibility needs. The study would also research an envisioned addition to provide both the art gallery and museum with additional exhibition spaces on the ground floor.

Mayor Gladys Atrill wanted to make it clear she would support a feasibility study but not an expansion of the building at this point in time, adding that the art gallery pulled out of the combined library/gallery project because their space needs were met with Creation Station on Railway Avenue.

“I think that’s a really big consideration,” she said. “There are things that once they roll, it’s hard to step back. So I’m just stating for the record, I would support a feasibility [study]. But sometimes when you’ve already spent money on a feasibility [study], it’s hard to come back. So I’m hearing the thing about accessibility, definitely support that if we can do it.”

Councillor Frank Wray echoed her concerns. He said the town owns the building and leases it to the Central Park Building Society for $1 a year and they take care of the maintenance through the rent they charge plus they are able to access grants that the town can’t as a municipality.

“Council definitely would be getting into a rabbit hole if we started doing major repairs,” he added. “Council has reluctantly provided some money when the society couldn’t find money. But also the society has been able to get money for windows, for example, from hydro that we wouldn’t have been able to get. So hopefully, if there is something coming out of this, that is something that the building society can access funds for.”

In the end, council decided to support the grant application for a feasibility study while making it clear they don’t support a major renovation to the back of the building at this time.

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@MariscaDekkema
marisca.bakker@interior-news.com

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The Central Park building at the corner of Main Street and Highway 16. (File photo)

The Central Park building at the corner of Main Street and Highway 16. (File photo)

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