Chipping away at the arts: Vancouver's Red Gate arts space gets the boot
There's no doubt aboot it: city's culture sector is increasingly starved for space. Facing eviction by Lululemon founder's firm, one venue sounds off about gentrification
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Among the towers and turmoil of Vancouver’s soaring real estate market, another community arts space is being evicted.
Red Gate Arts Society, a non-profit that provides space to local artists at low rates says it has been ordered to pack its bags and vacate its East Hastings space by May 31.
Co-founder Jim Carrico said the situation for artists in Vancouver is dire.
“We’re busting at the seams. There’s very little rehearsal (or) studio space, affordable rehearsal space,” he said.
The one-story, 7,875 square-foot building at 855 East Hastings St. is owned by Low Tide Properties, one of several companies owned by Lululemon founder Chip Wilson.
Red Gate’s long-term lease on the space expired about two years ago, Carrico explained. Since then, the non-profit has been on a month-to-month rental agreement, with an understanding that Red Gate would eventually be evicted and given three months notice to vacate.
Low Tide did not respond to repeated requests for an interview and Carrico would not provide Metro with a copy of the “surrender” notice received by Red Gate.
According to BC Assessment, the assessed value of the land rose from $4.5 million in 2016 to $5.7 million in 2017.
The City of Vancouver has confirmed that Low Tide has applied to renovate the property and change its use from “manufacturing” to “retail,” providing space for storefront spaces.
The area is facing development pressures, and a series of high-rise condos down the street are nearing completion.
“It wasn’t a surprise, we’ve been expecting it,” Carrico said. “The condos next door are just about finished.”
Red Gate provides emerging artists with space for creativity and experimentation, and considers itself as part of the “culture industry.” The location from which it is being evicted includes a gallery space at the front, with expansive studio space in the back, which is often converted into a dance floor for events, including queer dance parties and small concerts.
The area, said Carrico, is transitioning away from industrial use.
“What we're doing, it's more appropriate for actual industrial areas, so we just assumed that we'd be able to find a building in the industrial areas,” he said.
Howevever, despite hunting for a new location over a year, the organization hasn’t found anything it can afford, and Carrico wants a city-wide solution.
“There's lots of places, but they're very expensive, so we need to have a city plan,” he said. “It's not just cultural space, it's any independent business, anything that gives Vancouver character.
“It's intolerable that people who have lived here and worked here for years and years have to leave, because we're now expendable.”
This is the second time Red Gate has been evicted from its space. In 2011 it was forced to leave another Downtown Eastside building due to condo development.
Despite the impending eviction, the society said in a statement on its website that as a six-year old organization run by and for artists, Red Gate is “in better shape than it’s ever been,” because aside from the pivotal space at East Hastings, the organization operates the Red Gate Revue Stage on Granville Island.
CORRECTION: Red Gate Arts Society operates two spaces. A previous version of this story incorrectly said the non-profit operates a total of three venues.