By ANN ROSENBERG
An Amenity Bonus is a perk worth having
To ensure that non-profit cultural societies can continue to be located in Vancouvers expensive downtown core, the City actively seeks to provide appropriate spaces through its Amenity Bonusing program. In this program, which began in 1975, the City, in partnership with private developers, creates affordable cultural facilities and live-work studios at no cost to taxpayers for approved associations that require them.
On its part, the scheme often allows the developer to build additional storeys on a future project. The value of that amendment is calculated by the Citys real estate department using a consistent pro forma analysis. The developer must build a fully finished gallery or another type of specialized space equivalent in dollar terms to that amount and prepay 20 years of the spaces operating costs to the City.
The City then secures the cultural amenity through a legal agreement which includes a lease for the life of the building. A pre-determined non-profit society sublets the Bonused Amenity from the City for a nominal rent (typically utilities) with the condition that prior to signing the sub-lease, the not-for-profit group has demonstrated an ability to raise funds. If feasible, before the deal is finalized, the city encourages the association to start the endowment fund that will be necessary to secure its space in future.
Non-profit groups cannot take the endowment fund with them if they decide to move to a different space and no endowment fund money will be theirs if the organization ceases to exist. Big bucks must be raised at least $400,000-600,000 to grow the required trust fund.
Perhaps because some groups in the past were unable to gather enough money for their endowments, the City now articulates conditions for Bonusing with absolute clarity. It emphasizes the participating associations necessity of initiating the establishment of an endowment fund before or at the time they first occupy their purpose-built premise.
These days, the Contemporary Art Gallery at 555 Nelson Street and ArtStarts in Schools at 873 Beattie Street are managing well under the pressure generated by the need to gather money.
CAG director Christina Ritchie said that long before the anticipated move to the new Bonused Amenity gallery in 2001, her predecessor Keith Wallace made enormous efforts to provide funds for the move and the start-up of the Endowment Fund. Financial support came from individuals and corporations who wished to ensure the continuity of the institutions service to the art community.
ArtStarts Director Wendy Newman, whose non-profit group has been in the program since 1996, is also not afraid of THE BIG E because she knows she is running something that businesses and people will want to support. At ArtStarts there are exhibitions of childrens art that result from artist-taught in-the-schools programs throughout British Columbia. ArtStarts expanding virtual program is catching fire and attracting sponsorships like moths to flame.
Next issue, the history of the Bonused Amenity that until 2004 was the home of the Canadian Craft Museum will be briefly examined and so will the New Tax Credit Program that is generating millions of dollars towards the construction of Portlands future Museum of Contemporary Craft.
Ann Rosenberg is a freelance curator, critic and author.