W2 Community Media Arts Society was given a notice of eviction by the City of Vancouver from the Woodward’s building last week that has since been stayed for 90 days while financial restructuring of the society takes place, Megaphone has learned.
A source close to the situation, who wished to remain nameless, first told Megaphone about the eviction notice, which was dated for November 23, for the W2 Media Café space in the Woodward's building. The locks to the W2 Media Café space have since been changed and the organization has laid-off all staff except the events coordinator, including executive director Irwin Oostindie.
Sid Tan, a W2 Media Arts Society* board member, confirmed details of the eviction notice and the 90 day stay.
“I don’t understand why the city’s doing this,” Tan told Megaphone when asked about the notice of eviction. “How come the movement [to evict] is so sudden?”
Councillor Kerry Jang explained the city’s actions.
“It [W2 Media Café] wasn’t making any money,” said Jang. “The business model that was there clearly wasn’t working. That’s what our city staffs and everyone are trying to figure out now: how to reinvent the space, how to reuse the space in order to make a go of it.”
W2 Media Arts Society was launched in 2004, moving into its current 10,000 square foot space, including the W2 Media Café, in the newly redeveloped Woodward's building in June 2011. A former department store, Woodward’s was reopened in 2010 after community activists occupied the vacant site to secure social housing from the province, which has been acknowledged as a catalyst for the Woodward’s redevelopment.
Since moving into its current space, W2 has employed several Downtown Eastside residents, describing itself on its website as “an artist-run, globally networked media arts lab, incubator, community meeting space and social enterprise cafe serving artists and residents of the Downtown Eastside and Vancouver.”
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The society is composed of three separate boards of directors: the W2 Community Media Education Society, which runs the media centre and the grassroots, community media projects; W2 Café Community Media Education Society, which runs the W2 Media Café; and the W2 Full Figure Theatre Company Society.
Members of the board of the W2 Community Media Education Society agreed to the city’s now-stayed eviction on behalf of the W2 Café Community Media Education Society. As part of the stay of eviction, both are undergoing financial restructuring with an accountant systems analyst and a non-profit consultant.
An emailed statement from Brenda Prosken, general manager of Community Services at the City of Vancouver, confirmed the financial restructuring: “The W2 arts and media umbrella is an important model that can benefit many small arts groups and media services. The board of W2 has indicated a need for an economic and organizational renewal,” she wrote.
“We support the move in a new direction that provides a sustainable model to serve the organization and community. We are reviewing their tenancy with them and have invited them to come forward with a new proposal.
“The City wants to ensure the W2 business model supports their continued operation as an umbrella for the City’s small arts organizations and media services. We are committed to the success of the City’s arts groups.”
When asked if the city had issued an eviction notice to W2, city communications staff referred Megaphone back to Prosken’s statement.
However, a meeting is scheduled to take place on December 11 to determine if the W2 Community Media Education Society board members overstepped their bounds in negotiating the stay of eviction terms.
“I don’t think they [the W2 Community Media Education Society board members] are allowed to do that, that’s why we’re having this meeting,” said Tan, who, as a Café board member, was not part of the negotiation for the stayed eviction.
Meanwhile, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson spoke at W2 on the morning of December 7 as part of W2's Creative Mornings monthly lecture series.
“While the mayor was at W2 giving speeches and having photo ops, his staff is trying to evict us,” said Tan.
Tan says W2 is the social amenity of Woodwards that enabled developers to build more and higher buildings than zoning restrictions allowed.
“We fail, the Woodward's plan fails,” he says.
*CORRECTION (10:04 a.m.): Sid Tan's board position was changed to the
Photo by Elijah.