Smithers council is not sure about giving a long-term lease to the Smithers Art Gallery for its Creation Station on Railway Avenue.
The gallery has leased the town-owned building behind town hall since February 2018. They have renovated the building to be used by the community and their organization. The Gallery Association has put more than $40,000 in repairs, upgrades and equipment into the space.
Initially, the gallery was given a five-year lease, for $1 per year, to facilitate the business operations of the gallery and the short-term temporary rental of studio or office space to community groups or members of the community for the purpose of classes, gatherings, or meetings.
Gallery manager Nicole Chernish spoke to council on Feb. 14, thanking them for the lease for the last five years and asked them to give the gallery a new 10-year lease.
“Securing the lease at 3866 Railway Avenue has given the gallery the ability to meet more of our community’s needs by offering daytime, after-school, evening and weekend workshops and ongoing sessions for art education for all ages,” she said.
“Our adult programming has increased by 10 per cent since signing the lease on 3866 Railway Avenue while summer kids camp programming has increased 192 per cent and after school programming went from zero sessions from 2013-2017 to 53 sessions over the past five years.
“Access to this facility has allowed the gallery to pay our instructors, partly off-set the salary of our community engagement coordinator who organizes all the workshops, pay for materials, cover all utilities and interior maintenance for the space, all while keeping costs reasonable for community members wanting to participate in visual arts education.”
She added most grant organizations require that non-profits applying for funding either own the building or have a minimum 10-year lease.
“We are asking for a 10-year lease on 3866 Railway Avenue as we would hate to miss out on grant funds to increase accessibility in this public building,” Chernish said.
However, town staff and council are concerned they might need the building back in the near future.
According to a report from staff, access to and the availability of facilities and space in the town has become a concern in managing community issues, working with the town’s partners and stakeholders, and addressing long-term human resource management risks.
The town, in cooperation with BC Housing, have been looking to secure a location for a cold-weather shelter that is accessible to homeless residents and can be made readily available to BC Housing. This building could be leased, if it meets the requirements of BC Housing, for use as an emergency cold weather shelter.
A lease for this space to BC Housing would provide market rent to the Town of Smithers.
The structure is located closely to the homeless encampment adjacent to Veteran’s Memorial Peace Park and Goodacre Place which would support a transition from the encampment when temperatures begin to drop.
Town staff also brought up another consideration for using the building. Town hall may need more office space and that could be a possible solution in the future.
Council wasn’t sure what to do and asked staff to report back with alternative options for the building and let the gallery lease it month to month until they figure out a new lease.