News Views: New museum could be easy

Moving to space city already owns in the downtown, makes sense for taxpayers

Maple Ridge council and staff have some heavy lifting to do as they seek to make up for years of indolence by previous councils that neglected to focus on building a complete city.

The lifting consists of updating and expanding Maple Ridge’s recreational capacity to meet the growing needs of the city as it approaches 100,000.

Council has been clear in its intent. It wants to borrow up to $110 million to build these projects –  sports fields, ice rinks, swimming pools.

What cannot be left off the list or denigrated to the bottom by the sports culture that predominates in this city is a functioning museum.

If any project is worthy of attention, it’s a new Maple Ridge Museum. In 2005, a $7-million, 16,000-sq.-ft. museum was proposed for a city-owned lot on 224th Street. That remains a dream.

Coun. Tyler Shymkiw though recently hinted that getting support for a new museum may be a tough sell if it comes to voters approving a tax hike.

But there could be a way where everyone wins.

The museum needs display and storage space.

There are about 16,000 sq. feet available in the city’s office tower next to Maple Ridge city hall, if the city moved the Service BC and Job Search BC from the ground floor and dedicated the space as a new Maple Ridge Museum and Archives.

The display windows facing Memorial Peace Park would be perfect for showing artifacts. On another storey, there would be ample space for storing priceless history and archives and in a central location that would make history come alive downtown.

Being located beside the Maple Ridge Library and steps away from the new bus exchange further adds to the no-brainer “synergies” of such a move.

Yes, it would mean the loss of lease revenue from prime tenants as well as reno costs, but such a move would save $10 million in new building costs, along with the yearly operating expenses.

As for a community theatre, some modifications to the current council chambers, allowing both council and theatre groups to use the space, could create an instant small theatre, at minimal cost.

Taxpayers expect council to be visionary, but smart, as it modernizes Maple Ridge.