BY BILL PHILLIPS
It’s no secret the Community Arts Council wants to move out of its digs at Studio 2880. The buildings at 2880 15th have long since served their purpose.
When the city gave approved a request from the Elizabeth Fry Society to build housing units at that location, the fact the Community Arts Council had to move was a fait accompli.
A few blocks away, the Prince George Farmers Market has had a pretty stable, albeit cramped, location on Sixth Avenue, behind the Keg Restaurant, where it has operated out of since 2011. But when the city earlier this year approved a housing development and underground parkade on the property, it was a fait accompli that the farmer’s market had to move too.
At least the city isn’t being a heartless landlord. It has worked hard to find new locations for both entities. So why not kill two birds with one stone? Or three? With Downtown Prince George also getting involved, the Prince George Farmers Market and the Community Arts Council will be moving to a new location – the old BMO Bank of Montreal branch at 1310 – 3rd Avenue (the intersection of Third and Quebec), which is owned by the city.
“For us it’s a great move,” said Phil Myatovic, president of the Prince George Farmers Market. “We’re really excited to move here and be part of this partnership with the Community Arts Council.”
The farmer’s market will continue as a year-round market, meaning indoor and outdoor sales. The outdoor market will get going very quickly, with the first sale at its new location on April 28, and a grand opening on May 5.
“It’s going to take us while to move here and sort everything out,” he said, adding there will be a little bit more space than the previous location. “It’s a premier facility compared to the other building … we’ve got the two routes, Second and Third Avenue, feeding people through so that going to be a huge bonus. We love our customers and we hope they will follow us here.”
For the Community Arts Council, the move will take a bit longer.
The Community Arts Council recently initiated an analysis of how 1310 – Third Avenue should be renovated – and possibly expanded – to meet the needs of a new, arts-based community centre that would be a home to many of the council’s members, as well as the farmers market. While that work is underway, the CAC will remain at Studio 2880 and allow the Farmers Market to occupy the downtown building.
Sean Farrell, Community Arts Council executive director, says he’s looking at moving by January, 2021.
“We’ve been exploring the possibilities of what our new facility is going to be for over a year now,” he said. “We want to do something that is very innovative and new. Our vision is to create a new community centre that’s all about creativity and the arts.”
The new building will have a bit of performance space as well and, of course, the gift shop will be relocated to the new spot as will CFIS, the community radio station. The location is also part of a vision for a corridor along Quebec Street with the Community Arts Council and Two Rivers Gallery bookending several restaurants along the way.
“This is going to be a major development downtown,” he said.
Ownership of 1310 – Third Avenue was recently transferred from UNBC to the city. BMO donated the building to the University in 2005, and while it has accommodated various research offices and classes, UNBC has been consolidating its downtown presence at the Wood Innovation and Design Centre and the Wood Innovation Research Lab, which is nearing completion. The Community Care Centre will remain in the building until July.
The BMO building was built in 1952 and was expanded twice, most recently in 1993. The city’s Official Community Plan, building on Prince George’s downtown vision last updated in 2009, recognizes Third and Quebec as one of the most desirable areas in downtown Prince George, located between the Tourism Info Centre and Canada Games Plaza. Downtown planning has envisioned this intersection as the logical centre of a market and cultural district.
The collaboration also involves Downtown Prince George.
“The concept of a public market place downtown that will connect the Farmers Market with other local vendors and downtown businesses to create a festive atmosphere, and attract more people to the downtown, supports a long-standing vision of our organization,” said Colleen Van Mook, executive director.