As we come to the end of 2022, it seems a good time to recap the evolution of our project for creating an Outdoor Community Gathering Space on Gabriola.
In June of 2021 we received notification that our grant application to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program – COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream had been successful. For two long months after that, our board was sworn to secrecy until the official announcement was made by the Federal and Provincial governments and we were able to share the news with the community. The project will provide the island with a covered outdoor, multi-purpose space capable of hosting year-round activities and events that will offer the community opportunities for gathering together for music, theatre, arts, recreation and for business.
We were one of 21 projects on Vancouver Island that received funding, the majority of which went to municipalities and regional districts. The project must be completed by December 31st, 2024.
The grant is $254,155 and covers 100% of eligible costs but recipients must be prepared to finance construction costs and be reimbursed after submitting claims. This was something of a stumbling block for a small non-profit like the Hall. The application had to include a board resolution endorsing the project and committing to covering any ineligible costs or overruns. Before passing the resolution, we thought long and hard but concluded that this was an opportunity of a generation that we needed to grasp.
In order to take on the interim project financing, we held a General Meeting of Members on October 17th, 2021, to request the members’ approval to borrow funds to undertake the project. We have already submitted claims for work done and are pleased to note that the processing time for reimbursement has been quite speedy.
Once this was in place, we were able to begin the preparatory work and information gathering essential to the design process as envisaged by our proposal. A property survey was done; an arboriculture assessment completed followed by the removal of dead, diseased or dangerous trees. We initiated a formal consultation process with the Snuneymuxw First Nation, ascertaining that there was no objection to the siting of the structure and continuing to dialogue throughout the evolution of the project. Another important step was an outreach effort via personal meetings and letters with the neighbours in the immediate vicinity to inform them of our plans and seek their input. Similarly, we engaged with a variety of community groups and individuals representing potential users of the space such as the choir, performers, theatre groups, artists, non-profits asking again for input. At the same time, the project manager hired by the Hall, Topographics Landscape Architecture, reviewed the current planning criteria for the Regional District of Nanaimo and Islands Trust and made a shortlist of three potential sites for the structure. Issues such as the parking lot configuration required consultation with MOTI; a variance to setback requirements discussed with IT; we explored legal concerns about the amalgamation of the two legal lots owned by the Hall – all this information needed to be clarified and processed before moving on from the preparatory phase.
On April 22nd, the board attended a presentation by Topographics Landscape Architecture, of potential sites on the property and ideas for the structure itself, after which an ad hoc committee was struck comprising several board members together with local architects, engineers, construction managers etc, with the task of evaluating sites and designs. On the basis of the committee’s deliberations over the course of several meetings, a Request for Proposal for architectural design services was sent to three firms in November and we anticipate that the board will make a decision on the architect to hire sometime over the next few weeks, with a final design being settled on during the first months of 2023. We are fortunate that Graham Macdonald has agreed to be our volunteer project manager for the construction phase.
Our board has worked very hard in landing this project and in bringing it to fruition. We are well aware of the responsibilities and obligations involved in overseeing the work involved and we hope we enjoy the trust of our community to see it through. We envision it creating a legacy for the whole island and being used by islanders in a myriad of ways: community picnics, sports, concerts, lectures, pop-up food trucks, cinema under the stars, board games, book clubs, art in the park, family events like First Night and Halloween – possibilities are endless. And should Covid-19 or a variant endanger us all again, our community will now have a venue in which to gather safely to continue activities essential to its physical, mental and economic well-being.
Aside from overseeing the above project, the Community Hall continues to be a busy place and the board has worked hard to accommodate ongoing renters. In fact, it has been difficult to find a day in the calendar for an electrician to change our old fluorescent lights to new more efficient LED lights. There are some spaces for new rentals – please check the calendar on our website: gabriolacommunityhall.com. Kathy Anderson, our booking agent would be happy to help you.
We’re also pursuing our new project of the installation of EV chargers, thanks to a grant from the Nanaimo Foundation.
Once again PHC will work their magic on Christmas Day at the Annual Spirit Feast. All are welcome to enjoy a delicious meal complete with the company of friends and neighbours. Let PHC know if you’d like to attend – it’s FREE!
Finally, since we’re approaching year end, thoughts tend towards tax receipts and we hope you will keep the Hall in mind when you’re considering donations. Maintenance and upgrades are a continual drain on the budget especially as we try to keep rental rates accessible to all, so any and all contributions will be most gratefully received with tax receipts to follow. You could send a cheque to Gabriola Community Hall Association, PO Box 205, Gabriola Island BC V0R 0X0 or donate online here :
Our heartfelt thanks!
Happy Holidays and enjoy a well deserved time to rest and reflect on the year gone by – again, like no other!
Joyce Babula, President
On behalf of the Board of Directors