British Columbia

It's a heated race to fill Emily Carr space on Granville Island

Federal and provincial officials are tight-lipped about the future tenants of two buildings now occupied by Emily Carr University, only saying the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education are in discussions.

Langara College and Arts Umbrella both eager to move in when art and design university migrates to new campus

Emily Carr University will vacate approximately 200,000 square feet of space in two buildings on Granville Island. (Cliff Shim/CBC)

Federal and provincial officials are tight-lipped about the future tenants of two Granville Island buildings now occupied by Emily Carr University, saying only that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education are in discussions.

The Vancouver art and design school is scheduled to move to its new state-of-the-art facility on Great Northern Way later this year. 

The school's current home occupies approximately 200,000 square feet and is a purpose-built facility for educational use said Lisa Ono, manager of public affairs for Granville Island CHMC. 

She says the South Building, operated by the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education on land leased from CMHC, is gathering the most attention. 

"There are a number of proponents that are interested in the space," said Ono. 

Langara College 

Langara College is eager to move its arts programming to Granville Island. 

In September 2016, it submitted an expression of interest to the B.C. and federal governments to acquire the South Building of Emily Carr University, once that school has moved out. 

The acquisition, according to documents obtained by CBC, would satisfy two critical issues faced by the college. 

Langara College wants to vacate Building A on its main Vancouver campus and eventually demolish it entirely to make way for a new facility. (Dan Imbeault/CBC)

First, it would help address the need to decommission and vacate Building A which contains more than 60 per cent of Langara's general purpose classrooms on its main Vancouver campus.

A seismic evaluation in August of 2010 concluded the building is at risk of significant damage in even a moderate earthquake. 

The second issue faced by the college is the immediate need for classroom and office spaces to accommodate a growing population of students. 

Arts Umbrella 

Arts Umbrella, a not-for-profit group that offers arts education to pre-school, elementary and high-school students on Granville Island, also wants to move into the coveted Emily Carr space once it's vacated. 

"We're actually leasing programming space off the island in the Mount Pleasant area just to deal with the overflow we're struggling with," said Paul Larocque, president and CEO of Arts Umbrella. 

"It's no secret that we've grown out of our current space on Granville Island."

Granville Island 2040 

Ono said CMHC did not put out a call for expressions of interest regarding the future of the Emily Carr buildings but held extensive workshops, stakeholder meetings and online surveys as part of its Granville Island 2040 vision. 

She refused to confirm if Langara College or Arts Umbrella are in the running for the space, either independently or in a shared agreement.

"The possibility of collaboration is still on the table," said Ono.

"There are all indications that it will be an education use that will fill the gap of having a student body here."

Provincial input 

Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson says his office will have to come up with a proposal for CMHC's approval. 

"Given it's a government to government relationship, we don't expect it to be a situation where CMHC would arbitrarily veto our suggestion," said Wilkinson. 

"We're talking to CMHC about what would be a compatible use for the building to fit into their regime because they are the landlord."