Museum board excited about possible home in conference centre 

Council instructs staff to look at institutional uses for new library building

Plans to put Whistler’s museum into the conference centre instead of the proposed library/museum facility could prove fruitful, according to the chair of the Whistler Museum & Archives Society.

"There are synergies that were there with the library obviously from an educational point of view, but there’s equally strong synergies with the conference centre and with Tourism Whistler," said Stephen Henderson, chair of the board.

"I think the number of visitors going through the museum would be substantially higher if we were in proximity to the conference centre."

Council recently directed staff to discard the plans to build a $10 million library/museum facility near the parking lot on the Main Street loop and instead pursue a scenario where the two institutions would be built separately.

That means $500,000 worth of design plans drawn up over the past year are now off the table.

Staff will now conduct a feasibility study that would put the museum at the underground space once used by Mountain World, next to the conference centre. At the same time they will explore the development of a library on the original site of the joint project. Staff will also be looking into the potential of putting institutional space, some residential housing and limited commercial uses in the library building.

"We’ll be undertaking a planning study (for our civic or institutional uses)," said Martin Pardoe, parks planner for the municipality.

"We did one several years back and it’s time that we updated that and now with the Olympics coming on and other facilities possibly being developed in relation to the Olympics in or near the village, we need to assess what our needs are."

While Councillor Kristi Wells supported the direction in general, she voted against the motion saying council should aggressively pursue a public private partnership or P3 with the library building.

"I truly believe that a P3...will allow for the library to be built better, faster and more efficiently," she declared at the meeting.

"There’s a potential for it to cost nothing to the taxpayers and end up with a better product.

"It’s very much a win-win (situation) and looks well beyond your traditional civic building."

The remaining council members voted to move ahead with studies for both sites without looking at P3s.

"We haven’t said this is going to be a purely civil building," said Councillor Ken Melamed.

The land identified for the library is owned by the crown and has a restrictive covenant on it.

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