“What is arising is the amazing transformation of a former industrial area to an educational mecca for the arts as well as galleries and other businesses.” The Source, Feb. 23 – March 8, 2016.
The re-development of the site commonly known as The Flats, on the north side of Great Northern Way, has accelerated since 2012 when the Centre for Digital Media (CDM) opened and the Equinox Gallery moved to this area.
Most of the large buildings at the GNW campus that once house the headquarters of Finning International have been demolished to make way for important educational assets — a few heritage exceptions remain. The largest and most notable is the former paint and mechanical shop from the Finning complex opened in 1965, now referred to as 525.
Since Finning vacated 525 in 2001, this one-storey industrial building became home to the Equinox Gallery five years ago and the Monte Clark Gallery took over the west side of the building a year later. High ceilings, reasonable rent, and parking were among 525’s draws but there was also a desire to foster a creative arts sector in an old industrial neighbourhood.
Developments such as this in major world cities have proven successful in stimulating local creative communities, encouraging investment and economic development, and drawing both tourists and local visitors.
- In Beijing the 798 Art Zone was created by local artists and architects in an old factory complex.
- In 2005 local Denver artists converted old foundries into the River North Arts District, with more than 50 galleries now occupying former industrial space.
- In Zurich, an old Lowenbrau brewery was converted twenty years ago into galleries, small theatres, studios and restaurants.
- And in Los Angeles, one of the city’s old warehouse districts has evolved into a world-class arts precinct.
A similar re-invigoration is now underway at Great Northern Way.
In a very short time, 525 has become a focal point for the BC visual arts community. Since 525’s renovation to house art galleries, another 10 contemporary art venues have now clustered in nearby streets. MEC built its new head office just down the street, and Red Truck and Brassneck have both opened breweries just a five-minute walk away. 525’s notable location, directly across from the new Emily Carr University, will also provide an unparalleled free resource for students and faculty.
Both the Equinox and Monte Clark galleries offer free, year-round programming. The galleries have seen attendance soar, thanks to 525’s ability to host large exhibitions and events. The flexible space, with its heritage design, is now a distinctive destination for locals and visiting art enthusiasts alike.
The Save525 campaign is organized by Equinox Gallery and Monte Clark Gallery, alongside a dedicated group of citizens. You can add you voice to Save525 by signing here.