Two downtown locations are on the radar for BIG Little Science Centre as it charts a course to a new and — board directors hope — permanent location.
Stuart Wood elementary, to be vacated by the school district after classes end in June, and the former Kamloops Daily News building are both under consideration, said executive director Gord Stewart.
The centre’s current location at Happyvale elementary in Brocklehurst is the fourth in the dozen years he’s been involved with the educational facility.
“I’d like to not have to move again,” Stewart said, noting that they haven’t fully unpacked materials from their last move.
Part of the difficulty, aside from limited funds, is that both of the downtown sites are “basically floating around in limbo,” Stewart said Friday.
This latest move is partly driven by the need for more space because the centre’s exhibit space requirements have grown. It’s also driven by School District 73, which still owns Happyvale and has flagged it as a possible location for a North Shore French immersion school.
Big Little Science Centre Society is one of four not-for-profit organizations that responded earlier this month to the City’s request for information on The Daily News property. That would have to be undertaken in partnership with the City since the society doesn’t have the sort of capital funds required to repurpose the former Hudson’s Bay department store. Five private developers also submitted proposals for the property.
For the society, the same cost factor applies to Stuart Wood elementary school, which would need an estimated $6 million in upgrades, including renovations to make it wheelchair-accessible.
“I know the City is interested in having us at Stuart Wood if it comes available,” Stewart said, suggesting that senior governments in Victoria and Ottawa might be prepared to cover a share of the renovation costs.
The school’s strong heritage character as well as the playing field — centre activities often mov outdoors — would be advantageous, he said.
After so many years of moving around, the society considered the possibility of constructing its own free-standing building using the most inexpensive design it could find, but even that would came in at $3.5 million, not including the land required.
“For us, that would be a big fundraising project.”
The City is awaiting clarification from the provincial government on its interpretation a historic agreement whereby the Stuart Wood school land and the adjacent park were handed over in 1906. The agreement states that the land must be used for educational purposes.
“We still haven’t got confirmation from the government,” Coun. Donovan Cavers said Friday.
The province did confirm that university use would fit the definition, but the possibility of partnering with TRU on the old school fell through earlier this month. TRU decided that it could not find an appropriate use for a downtown campus at that location.
While the school has long-term civic potential, it stands as a liability for the City with annual maintenance costs of $79,000.