Release: Letter to Gerry Nichele, CEO of the Solterra Group

open-letter

Attention Gerry Nichele,

As we are sure you know from the media coverage with respect to your recent purchase of the Waldorf Hotel site, we are very distressed at the loss of what we and many, many, others see as a huge part of the Vancouver arts scene.

We consider this loss to be illustrative of many of the key challenges facing our city, the loss of cultural space, the predominance of condos as a land use, and the rapid gentrification and consequent loss of affordability of the east side.

We may have lost our base of operations, and we are hopeful that we will find good space elsewhere. But, the loss of the Waldorf has renewed our passion to fight for the kind of Vancouver we want – one full of art and life. We see this piece of land and hotel site that we care about as a key part of that battle, whether we are here or not.

Accordingly, we hope you understand that our agenda will be to mobilize all the resources and contacts we have in the arts community of the city we love to make sure that every single step of the rezoning process you will undertake is carefully and rigorously scrutinized. Our intention will be to support the City of Vancouver in insisting that any rezoning must minimize market condominium uses, and maximize benefits and space for the arts community.

We will put this case forward in the media, in writing to the city, on the internet, and in person at the public hearing. We are not anti-development. We just believe that this purchase and your rezoning process represents a key watershed moment in our ability to save a place for culture in our city.

We hope you choose to have an open mind about creating a place for the arts on the Waldorf Hotel site. It is your responsibility to the City.

We would like to start the discussion by suggesting you host an open public forum as a goodwill gesture. The intention of the forum will be for you to put forward your vision for the site, and for you to hear in person the possibilities this site has to keep Vancouver a great city.

We are with the arts community. We have a voice, and we will use it to be heard as you work your way through the process of rebuilding this critical part of our town.

We hope you choose to hear that voice.

Sincerely,

The Waldorf Creative Team

2 comments

  1. This is exactly the sort of thing that will actually impede arts space development in the future. 

    Let’s take a look at the situation from Solterra’s perspective. Their job is develop the land to its “highest and best use” as allowed by the zoning. In this case that’s probably condos. Remember, real estate development is a very risky business and the banks who provide loans want to make sure they get paid back – condos, for right or wrong, generally do that. Also remember that zoning and land use is the City’s responsibility. 

    So let’s say I’m a landlord and am amenable to leasing out space to a (for-profit) bar/art-space/concert-venue. Though it’s fun and kitschy, the bar/venue cannot (or otherwise refuses to) meet its lease obligations, potentially putting me at risk of not fulfilling my own mortgage or tax obligations. When action is taken to correct this, the bar then mounts a huge publicity campaign to vilify me. I’d then ask myself whether I made a mistake taking the chance with this bar/venue.  

    Seeing the Waldorf experience will certainly give pause to any property owner considering leasing to a self-styled “huge part of the Vancouver arts scene.” They observe the possibility that rent won’t get paid, that the venue will make life hell for them if they try to do anything about it. The last thing they’ll want is a repeat of this scene. 

    That said, we do need more affordability and more arts venues, but I don’t think Waldorf’s way of pushing this is the right way to go about it. It also sets a very bad precedent for the future as other property owners will be that much more defensive. 

    Here’s an idea for Waldorf – rally your social media army to pool funding together so that you (and they) can secure a space you can truly call your own. Pay the remaining mortgage from proceeds from tickets/liquor/etc. Remember gentrification can’t happen unless the owner sells – now you can be part of that solution. 

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