$4-million gift for new Presentation House Gallery home

Expectations are high for planners of a redesigned and renamed Presentation House Gallery on the City of North Vancouver waterfront thanks to a $4-million donation from Polygon Homes and the Audain Foundation.

Dignitaries gathered at the Pinnacle Hotel within eyeshot of the foot of Lonsdale construction site Tuesday morning for the funding announcement, which gallery executive director Reid Shier said is the “largest gift ever given to (the) gallery in its 30-year history,” and an important milestone on the way to its fundraising goal of $15 million.

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 “We’ve got commitments from our board and close friends of well over $1 million. We’re in quiet conversations with a number of other people. We’re confident we’re approaching 55 to 60 per cent,” he said. “We are wanting to be in the ground in construction next year. We’ll have to be at least 75 or 80 per cent of our goal before council will let us start digging but we’re pretty confident with this announcement today; we’ve got the wind at our back.”

The renowned photographic arts hub will be rebranded the Polygon Gallery when it opens at 105 Carrie Cates Court, “fingers crossed,” in 2017, Shier said. The site used to be a pay-parking lot.

The city is putting up $2.5 million for the gallery as well as the land, which will stay in city hands.

Mayor Darrell Mussatto, who Shier credited as an enthusiastic champion for the gallery, said it represents a big piece of the overall revitalization of Lower Lonsdale and the central waterfront, which also includes a new plaza at the foot of Lonsdale, Spirit Trail connections, a new North Vancouver Museum and Archives as well as the Shipyards district. The end result should be a dynamic gathering place for residents and visitors, year round,” he said.

“The gallery will be an incredible and important part of that,” he said.

Polygon Homes founder Michael Audain and Neil Chrystal president and CEO of the company are joined by Presentation House Gallery Reid Shier, Mayor Darrell Mussatto and Presentation House campaign chairman Stuart McLaughlin at Tuesday's announcement of a $4-million gift to PHG from Audain and Polygon. - Mike Wakefield, North Shore News

Polygon and its founder and chairman Michael Audain are both big contributors to the arts, putting up funds for galleries around B.C.

“It was a great opportunity because it fits with our interest and commitment to the North Shore as well as our interest in visual arts,” Audain said. “I think it’s a very valuable addition to the arts infrastructure of B.C.”

The building’s design, by Patkau Architects, is unique in the Lower Mainland. Glass walls on the main level preserve street level views and a crumpled steel facade on the second floor is designed to reflect natural light during dark and cloudy months of the year.

City council had hoped to put the gallery into a retrofitted old Cates building on the waterfront, but the structure was too corroded to be viable.

“We think there are design elements that link it back to the industrial heritage,” Shier said. “We weren’t going to do a faux heritage structure. What we wanted to do was allow our architects the freedom to really do their job and we’re thankful that the Patkaus have come up with what we think is a really stimulating and inspiring design.”

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