The Vancouver Island School of Art has found a new home – pending approval from the City of Victoria.
In a release, VISA said plans are in process with ARYZE Developments and Purdey Group, to move into a 6,000 sq. ft. space currently under consideration as part of the proposed mixed-use residential project Ross Terrace, in the 2500-block of Fifth Street in Quadra Village.
School District 61, VISA’s current landlord, gave notice a year ago they would be evicting the art school from its Quadra Street location (effective Aug. 31), citing a need for the building as a result of increasing enrollment.
In April, executive director Wendy Welch told the News, “We want to stay here, the neighbourhood wants us to stay here.” The new location is just a stone’s throw – the properties border each other – from VISA’s current location, its home of 13 years.
“The school has been part of the Quadra Village for 13 years and this will ensure that its integral role continues on,” said Colette Baty, president of VISA. “We believe this groundbreaking project fits perfectly with the City’s desire to incentivize developers to contribute toward cultural spaces.”
ARYZE and Purdey withdrew their initial application for the development when they heard about VISA’s dilemma.
A revised application for three side-by-side properties at the Fifth Street location will soon be submitted; it’s the first of its kind in Victoria, where a not-for-profit cultural institution will partner with a private developer.
The initiative falls in line with the City’s Arts and Cultural Strategic Plan, encouraging investment entities and cultural spaces to work together.
“We see this as a rare opportunity to support the school and cultural arts generally,” said Luke Mari, head of development with Purdey Group. “Yes, we’re developers, but we’re also urbanists and keeping one of the last art schools in the city is quite important.”
There is strong community support for the school and a desire to keep it in the community, he added.
The new space will decrease the size VISA is used to operating in, but will include two large multi-purpose classrooms, a gallery, several studio spaces, a communal kitchen, lounge/library space and outdoor terrace.
The project is contingent on an approved rezoning from the City, but Mari said the hope is to start construction in spring 2019 with a completion date of Sept. 2020.
In the meantime, VISA is still working with SD61 to extend the lease at 2549 Quadra St.