New zoning changes create unprecedented new Vancouver artist space opportunities

February 6, 2013 | Arts and Culture

Last night Vancouver City Council unanimously approved zoning bylaw changes that will create significant new affordable artist space in Vancouver, by allowing work-only art studio uses in all of the city’s industrial districts. The potential space in which artists are eligible to rent for studios is expanding fourteen-fold, from 2 million square feet to 28 million square feet.

“Vancouver is home to one of the most talented and innovative creative sectors of any city in the world, and the City of Vancouver is committed to using every tool at its disposal to support our local arts and culture community,” said Mayor Robertson. “The median income of a working artist is about 36% below the Vancouver labour force average, so finding affordable and suitable studio space is a frequent challenge for emerging artists. These new opportunities in industrial districts will strengthen our creative community and support artists by providing an unprecedented increase in the availability and affordability of much-needed artist space in neighbourhoods all across Vancouver.”

Work-only artist studios are now allowed in all 12 of the City's industrial districts, increasing the area of industrial lands allowing art uses from 70 acres to nearly 1300 acres. Council also approved changes to remove the 500 square-metre limit on artist work-only studios, enabling artist groups to partner on studio space.

On a per capita basis, the City of Vancouver has the highest number of artists and provides the most local grant funding for arts organizations of any major city in Canada. It is estimated that over 8000 Vancouver residents work in the arts, and the City of Vancouver has been consistently committed to finding innovative ways to leverage land, resources, and other support for the benefit of local artists and Vancouver's creative economy.

Last night’s zoning bylaw changes add to a series of measures taken by the City to support Vancouver arts and culture, including:

  • Council’s recent motion to formally identify and provide stronger protection for key Vancouver arts and cultural spaces;
  • the launch of the Arts Factory, a new 21,000 square foot artist space at 281 Industrial, which will provide up to 40 new studio spaces in a City-owned building;
  • the creation of a citizen-led Arts and Culture Policy Council;
  • over 20,000 square feet of new artist space approved in 2012;
  • 44,500 square feet of space approved at the Wall Centre at 160 West 1st Avenue, designed to accommodate a new 250-seat theatre and a rehearsal hall;
  • the Park Board offering nine previously vacant field houses rent-free to artists in exchange for community-engaged arts projects and programming;
  • approval for restoring the historic York Theatre on Commercial Drive, to be operated by the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.