Sooke Community Hall

Renovations eyed for Sooke Community Hall

Sooke Community Association must apply for grant by Aug. 30

The Sooke Community Hall is in line for some much-needed modernization, and it could happen as early as next year, if a grant application is successful.

The charity effort would be done by Victoria-based HeroWork that specializes in renovating non-profit spaces.

The Sooke Community Association, the owner of the building, must apply for the grant. The application deadline is Aug. 30.

Behind the initiative is Marlene Barry, the head coordinator of the application process and a supporter of the Sooke Community Association. She believes this is an opportunity for Sooke to bring its beloved hall into the 21st century.

“It’s a major renovation if we’re successful with the application,” Barry said, adding that the retrofit will include new washroom facilities, a small commercial kitchen, improved dining and meeting room space, as well as major safety improvements such as putting accessibility ramps upstairs and downstairs and improving the elevator.

The building would also be seismically upgraded.

“[HeroWork’s] big aim is to bring these aging infrastructures up to current code. That’s huge,” Barry said, pointing out that there are 15 non-profit organizations that use the hall on a regular basis, as well as special events such as weddings, funerals, dances and concerts.

The way it works is HeroWork will have 75 per cent of the cost donated, and the owner of the building (Sooke Community Association) must raise the other 25 per cent.

Besides renovations on the top floor, the downstairs section of the building is redesigned based on what the organizations currently operating there need, Barry noted.

“We brought all 15 organizations together and asked them, what are your minimum needs, what are your biggest dreams, and tried to tie all that together so that everyone’s needs are met, especially the existing tenants.”

All the groups downstairs will have customized and bright spaces where everything is clean and organized, which also includes a revised workspace for the Sooke Food Bank.

Barry said even if Sooke doesn’t get the grant, it could still be a positive start to a new beginning for the building.

“They’ll have something which they can use as a launch port for other grants, and chip away at it rather than get it done all at once,” she said.

If it does go through, it would be an ideal birthday gift, as the hall will reach its 80th anniversary in the fall of 2017. The work would be completed in September or October next year.

Sooke council would also support the initiative, as retrofitting the hall into a more modern facility has been on the docket for some time, said Mayor Maja Tait.

“The community hall is a beautiful building, but it does need work, particularly on the downstairs level,” she said. “It’d be curious to see how this goes and how we can support it.”

Tait said that if Sooke isn’t the successful candidate something can still be done.

“We’d be made aware and perhaps the district can assist in some way in getting that done. It has to be done. I think it’s just timely.”

Any local business willing to show their support for the HeroWork grant, please contact Marlene Barry at: barryfambarry@netscape.net or 250-884-9955.