W2: Community Media Arts Vancouver BC




February 23, 2012

Richard Newirth 

Director of Cultural Services

City of Vancouver

Investing in the public-nonprofit Woodward’s community amenity 

Thank you for meeting with us last week, and for your ongoing cooperation as we develop a successful public-nonprofit partnership for the City’s community amenity space. As the only surviving Purpose-Built proponent approved in 2006 by the Woodward’s Community Advisory Committee, staff, and Council, W2 remains committed to its ambitions of sustaining community access space in Woodward’s. 

The process to develop this inclusive space over the past eight years has been met with considerable delays, funding challenges, lessons, and debates in our DTES neighbourhood.  After operating six different spaces surrounding Woodward’s-—each with a distinct business model—Mayor Gregor Robertson, Gregory Henriquez and Ian Gillespie opened the W2 Media Cafe in the Woodward’s Atrium in September 2011. 

We have been steadfastly building capacity, and developing policies and procedures, while implementing front-line programs and services. Some of the challenges we face may be considered normal opening issues for a community centre in a new complex, while others are specifically unique to the neighbourhood pressures and Woodward’s goals of social engineering a mix of residents, SFU students, and retail customers.  W2 received the 2011 CCEC Credit Union Community Economic Development Award, and has engaged with 80 community organizations and business this past year.  We know when we look back at Woodward’s revitalization, we will know we made the correct patient investments to build community buy-in and construct a stable legacy for decades to come.

We are carrying an operating deficit for fiscal year ending March 31, 2012 of approximately $80,000, and an additional debt load of $110,000 in start-up costs. W2 recognizes it will be 24-36 months until we are stable and operating at a break-even. We require time to redevelop our business plan and revise our agreement with the City of Vancouver on finishing the only public-access space in Woodward’s.

We propose there are immediate issues that require further research and understanding in regards to their impacts on the sustainable delivery of a community, media, and arts hub to advance the economic revitalization of the DTES. In the coming 4-8 weeks, we propose engaging outside consultants, City staff, W2 member groups, individual W2 members, plus our partners from the social enterprise, social innovation and technology sectors to develop action plans. Reaching revenue targets will be part of a comprehensive strategy with identifiable objectives and exoectations. Surrounding ourselves with respected community leaders and entrepreneurs will be vital in helping monitor and measure W2’s target outcomes.  Some immediate areas of attention include:

Outstanding amenity fee contributions for the non-profit spaces leased by W2 to March 31, 2012.     

Phased-in amenity fees for public access spaces within heritage building for upto 36 months (possibly May 1, 2011 to March 31, 2014) to ensure stable systems and operational development. The W2 spaces are the only public-access spaces in the Woodward’s complex. The City has also invested in public washrooms in conjunction with the community lounge and gathering spaces. 

W2 requires six large-capacity SOLs per month (200+ persons) in order to sustain ongoing revenue targets. 

Examine prospects of Great Beginnings funding for reintroduction of heritage space as public gathering space with completion of Atrium infrastructure, and support W2 to provide technical and production services for Atrium for the City and community users. City of Vancouver consider joining partnership with W2, Westbank, and Hastings Crossing BIA. 

Examine enhanced partnerships between City initiatives such as LAPP, Greenest City Action Team, Youth Dialogues Project, and Economic Development Commission with W2 social enterprise operations. By partnering with W2, the City‘s investments in Woodward’s heritage building completion could draw benefits through required business services such as W2’s meeting and event services,  media and tech services, and catering.    

Improvements to access systems enabling public entry to second floor and basement spaces, for those unable to use stairs. Removal of barriers to the public will boost community centre utilisation and identification by local residents, as well as fuelling economic benefts to W2’s social enterprise operations. Wheelchair and Elderly access can be improved by implementation of fob and automatic door systems. Possibly funded through the Great Beginnings to improve public access to City property. Additional integration of security procedures connecting W2 interior spaces with Atrium spaces to ensure public access to the community centre spaces. 2nd floor to be open matching hours to Atrium, supervised by OCS.  

W2 is delivering the community’s aspirations as set out in the May 2003 City Community Visioning Workshops and Ideas Fair. Following the withdrawal of the DTES Neighbourhood House from Woodward’s, and its promised community-access space, W2 assumed responsibility to deliver community benefits from the project. W2 worked in partnership with the City to establish public washrooms, and worked with the Simon Fraser Student Society to secure investment for the creation of a community lounge and meeting room. Compared to the operating costs of community centres such as Carnegie or Roundhouse, the City and Park Board are earning significant financial benefits from having a partner such as W2 operate the community space. W2 mobilises hundreds of volunteers, thousands of hours in sweat equity from community members, and more than $100,000 in waived senior staff wages

In the short-time of operating, W2 Media Cafe has emerged as the busiest Urban Aboriginal programming space within Vancouver - that is not operated by an Aboriginal organisation. This crosscultural work is vital and important within the City of Vancouver. The City’s early support for W2’s “coalition” of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal nonprofits is part of the success in realising these early outcomes. W2’s hotelling model is working and has achieved tremendous success in incubating nonprofit’s growth.  

Since May 2011, W2 has partnered with more than eighty organisations and businesses in delivering public services and events at Woodward’s. W2 has 14 staff, and 40% of the staff-team are Urban Aboriginal and residents of the DTES. W2 is broadly respected and is a leading cultural institution in the city with 5250 organisational members, 5132 twitter followers, 2432 website members, and 2400+ Facebook group members. 

We have consistently provided space for the City of Vancouver and supported production of City events and meetings in these spaces. W2 proposes a renewed commitment to support the City Dialogues Project, Greenest City Action Team, and other public engagement strategies connecting residents to the City. Woodward’s provides a unique location and demographic to showcase the Greenest City Action Team, and with W2’s award-winning community economic development work model (tech incubator and employment strategy for inner-city residents) W2 hopes it can help take on a supporting infrastructure role.  

As with the City’s Dialogues between First Nations, Urban Aboriginal and Immigrant Communities, W2’s mandate of social inclusion, crosscultural dialogue and promoting civic participation are a solid match with City plans.  The City benefits from the on-the-ground presence of W2 and frontline work with the neighbourhood. But it is evident with the financial troubles of W2, that our unique engagement strategy to connect disparate communities, comes at a cost to revenue generation and social enterprise business development. By employing local residents, making space and resources available, W2 helps promote community buy-in to the Woodward’s project.  W2 also generates a large and growing programming schedule and is working extremely hard to bring the Woodward’s Atrium to life. W2 has already hosted several City projects in the Atrium and inside W2 spaces. W2 is also building a hub with the NFB and SFU at Woodward’s. W2 is networked to the world and is producing more networked international events than any cultural organisation in Vancouver.  

While our programming is starting to make strides, in order to build-in financial sustainability, W2 has taken steps to diversify its revenue streams, reducing our financial independence levels from 93% self-generated revenues in 2010 to 82% in 2011, and anticipating 70% in 2012. (Not including cafe operations). Largely by increasing our staffing capacity to fundraise and grantwrite, W2 is anticipating receiving approximately $200,000 in public and foundation grants in 2012. 

The W2 Board has set a target of raising an additional $735,000 for our capital campaign. These resources will ensure the sustainability of operations by equipping all spaces and maximizing revenue potential from our programming and social enterprise rental and technical services delivery. W2 is delivering several crowd-funding campaigns in the short term to purchase a letterpress and TV broadcasting systems. 

The overall capital campaign has been slow to develop given the uncertain and protracted construction process, the distractions of developing operating systems and serving the public, and competing prerogatives on leveraging investments in the Purpose-Built space TI completions. (The City of Vancouver was unwilling to have its investments matched by the federal government, at a key time when W2 sought matching funds from Cultural Spaces Canada. W2 is again approaching the Heritage Canada to develop an ask for 2012.) Fulfilling the capital campaign is important in helping sustain services and operations. 

We look forward to this next year of stabilising operations and working with the City of Vancouver as a partner to deliver cultural and community services from Woodward’s.    


Irwin Oostindie, 

Executive Director


Dethe Elza, President

Magnus Thyvold, Treasurer/Past-President

Heiko Decosas, Secretary

Sean Cranbury, Programming Ctte

Jeff Herrera, Programming Ctte

Sarah Shamash, Programming Ctte

Sid Tan, W2 Community TV Cluster liaison

Lani Russwurm, W2 Cafe Board liaison

Jenni Rempel, SFSS Liaison

Holly Page, Labour Liaison

Jen Pearson, Utopia Tech Liaison

April Smith, Digital Divide Liaison

Hazen Sise, Capital Fundraising Liaison

Lianne Payne, Administrative Director

CC Michael Flanigan, Director of Real Estate Services



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