Maritime Museum future uncertain for Victoria region

Lease negotiations at the Steamship Terminal continue for the Maritime Museum of British Columbia

Victoria could lose the Maritime Museum for good if a long-term lease is not secured with the CPR Steamship Terminal.

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, the primary tenant of the province-owned building, signed a six-month exclusive option to negotiate a long-term lease for the Maritime Museum in September. This option to lease expired on Feb. 28 of this year and was extended until March 31.

If the Maritime Museum is not granted a lease in the Steamship Terminal, Clay Evans, chair of the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, said the board will have to meet to discuss other options. The museum has not had a home since it left its building in Bastion Square on Oct. 21.

“There are other parties in Nanaimo [and] Vancouver that are interested in the collection,” said Evans. “We’re not actively looking at that, but we have had offers before.”

However, leaving Victoria would be the worst case scenario for the Maritime Museum, he said.

“I think this is where it belongs. [But] if we don’t have a house, and we can’t run as a museum in terms of programming and admissions and so forth, we have to do our due diligence as a board and make sure that the collection’s looked after.”

The Maritime Museum would be missed in Victoria if the city were to lose it, said Victoria Coun. Pamela Madoff.

“It would be the loss of a cultural and educational facility with a long history in the city, which could have a very bright future if the appropriate departments work together.”

The space in the Steamship Terminal the museum hopes to rent is currently a concrete shell with pillars. Before the museum would be able to move in, improvements would need to be made.

“We’re hoping that the province would consider utilizing some of the earned revenue from the building to do the fixturing of the space,” said Evans.

He estimates the needed improvements would cost between $750,000 and $1 million – money the museum itself does not have.

“We’re a little society that’s done big things for a long time. But now that it’s been essentially five months without admissions revenue, we don’t have a nest egg to do the tenant fixturing for the building. We need assistance from the province to get that done,” said Evans. “We’re prepared to pay for all of the exhibit design and construction, which is over $1 million, which we’re raising independently.”

Madoff said these landlord improvements should be included as part of the negotiations.

If the province agrees to pay 50 per cent of the cost of fixturing the space, Evans said the Maritime Museum would be eligible to apply for up to $1 million from the federal government’s Canada Cultural Spaces Fund, said Evans, adding that a minimum 10-year lease would have to be in place.

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