The Maritime Museum of B.C. could be moving back into the Steamship Terminal with the help of a grant from a private independent foundation.
The TK Foundation, which supports non-profit maritime, youth development and South Africa programs, has provided a conditional offer of $500,000 to help with fitting out the lower level of the Steamship Terminal building, located in the Inner Harbour.
“It’s great when somebody comes forward with $500,000 potentially and has faith in what we do,” said Clay Evans, chair of the Maritime Museum of B.C. Society Board.
But he was quick to note it is conditional financial support, based on the museum’s ability to successfully negotiate a long-term lease of the space.
“It’s going to be very contingent on the province re-evaluating their position,” said Evans, adding that in the past, the province has offered financial support for base rent.
“Really, if we don’t have that support, if we can’t roll back time about two months to the point where we were very close to having that lease agreement with the GVHA, I don’t think it’s going to work.”
The Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens Services is standing firm, saying no additional funding will be provided.
“The ministry extends its congratulations to the museum for securing private-sector funding, which will be essential to its future operations.
“The ministry has said all along it will assist in any future negotiations for an appropriate, mutually agreed upon space by providing information on possible options and advice on lease agreements, however, no additional funding would be provided,” said the ministry in a statement.
The museum has been homeless since last year when the province asked it to vacate its premise in Bastion Square by Sept. 30.
Since then, the museum board has been struggling to find a new home for the more than 35,000- artifact collection.
Numerous Island communities have expressed interest in helping the museum relocate, but Evans believes the best option is still the Steamship Terminal.
The museum needs to submit an expression of interest to the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority — the primary tenant of the building to be considered for the space.
“We’re open to all proposals. We’ll consider the maritime museum’s proposal along with all the others and give them equal consideration,” said Ian Robertson, CEO of the harbour authority. “We’ll review the ones that we think are most viable.”
Robertson added they hope to have a proponent selected as soon as possible.
The $500,000 funding provided by the foundation is not for rent, but would be used to renovate the roughly 6,000-square foot space to include a classroom for maritime history and culture for school groups, along with flooring, subwalls, electricity, lighting and bathrooms.
The museum also hopes to apply for a federal grant to match the $500,000.
Though it’s not large enough to house the entire collection, it could be used as exhibit space.
They will continue to operate the society and research space in Nootka Court.
“What the GVHA was looking for was about a $90,000 a year base rent subsidy for 10 years,” Evans said.
“So basically what we’re talking about is less than $1 million over 10 years, which, in the bigger scope of things to keep to major cultural draw in Victoria, I think its pretty insignificant.”