More than four years since moving out, organizers hope the Maritime Museum of BC will move back into its long-time abode at 28 Bastion Square.
For more than 50 years the Maritime Museum occupied the space, but in 2014 was told by the province, which owns the building, that it was no longer safe and that the museum needed to move out. It’s been located at 634 Humboldt St. since then.
Now the province is reviewing Requests For Interest (RFI) which were submitted by Nov. 15. The province is looking for businesses to move into the 30,000 sq. ft. space, and take on the role of further remediating the 130-year-old building, including extensive seismic upgrades which would cost more than $20 million.
“Over the subsequent five years, RPD [the Real Property Division] undertook work to remediate water infiltration, mould, asbestos, failed plaster, and original wood frame windows. However, the space remains unsuitable for occupancy in its present state,” the province wrote in its RFI request description.
“RPD’s ultimate goal is the optimum utilization of the property. Ideal usage will strike a balance between social, environmental and heritage considerations; provide social, cultural, and economic benefit; and demonstrate value-for-money while minimizing financial risk and preserving the aesthetic and heritage features of this historic building.”
David Leverton, executive director of the Maritime Museum, believes they would be a promising contender.
“There’s a lot of historical significance… In the 1800s shipping was the main way to transport things,” he said. “We have the world’s longest coastline and border three oceans.”
Leverton added that in 1980 the building received national status as the oldest building in BC, and that ideally the Maritime Museum could be moved back in by 2021 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of BC entering the confederation.
This would pair well, he said, with the Museum’s ongoing efforts to attain national status and and become the furthest national museum west of Winnipeg.
For the past four years the Maritime Museum has been looking for the perfect site to accommodate a national collection, but after going through nine possibilities decided moving back to Bastion Square might be the solution– albeit with some significant renovations.
“The only way we could have a really meaningful look at going back to Bastion Square is by adding on an annex, an addition to Boomerang Court which would ad an additional 12,000 sq. ft., ” Leverton said.
Leverton and his team have also been in communication with local arts and culture groups to find out ways they could share the space to make it as accessible as possible. This includes the use of a shared lecture theatre, and and open, multi-purpose space on the first floor.
“It wouldn’t be meeting all of our needs, but we also recognize the importance of collaboration,” Leverton said . “From our standpoint we thought we could find a meaningful way to move forward.”
Leverton believes if the Maritime Museum could get national status, more funding would be available to help with costs. In total, he believes that remediation and opening as a national site would cost $45 million.
Several other RFI’s were also expressed, including an arts hub, a community centre and a private development.
The Downtown Victoria Business Association and the The City of Victoria have both backed the need for a creative arts hub through a third party.
Provincial decisions are set to be announced in the near future.