The New Space Hunt
Our manager has settled in, our finances are in order and after some restful holidays the board is ready to address our growing pains (the shop is literally overflowing with tools!). The mandate of the VTL has always been to provide not only the tools but also the knowledge, skills and confidence our communities need to improve their public and private spaces.
Our diverse inventory and supportive membership are a testament to the success of tool sharing, but a lack of shop space has limited our ability to empower community members with the skill-sets required to tackle projects on their own. As a result, the VTL has been looking for opportunities to move into a larger building with shop facilities.
The move is being strongly informed by the New Space Survey distributed in November of 2013, the results of which you can see here. While the most demanding requirement of the move is to find usable shop space, our survey showed that two of the top three areas for improvement requested by our membership are longer hours of operation and increased rental inventory. The latter is being consistently updated (our most recent acquisitions are listed here), but our library is limited by a lack of additional storage space. In the meantime, additional hours or days of operation are being studied and will be addressed at a new location, if not sooner.
We have several criteria for a new location:
– Easy access by foot, cycling, transit and automobile traffic.
– A minimum of 2000 sqft. of space, ideally with the potential to expand upwards of 4000 sqft. in the short- to medium-term.
– Subdivided unit to allow for the separation of our rental inventory and shop space.
– Industrial zoning where noise is a non-issue and we avoid paying a premium for retail space.
– Light industrial facilities where appropriate, including adequate ventilation and heavy 3 phase power.
– Lease rates and conditions which are sustainable in the long-term.
Detail of zoning in East Vancouver – blue areas are zoned industrial.
Geographically, the location of a new shop is influenced by two factors:
– There is a distinct lack of inexpensive warehouse space in the Kensington / Cedar Cottage neighbourhood.
– When presented with a hypothetical move to Strathcona in our membership survey in November, 70% of those members who responded stated they would use the VTL ‘as often as’ or ‘more often than’ they currently do.
Expanding close to our current location would require a large increase in rental rate for retail space, which would not be an appropriate use of our members’ resources. Our member mapping shows that in addition to Cedar Cottage, we have large groups of members located in Mount Pleasant and Grandview. As a result, our pursuit of space along Clark Drive is informed the fact that such a location would be equidistant from each of the three neighbourhoods with the additions of Strathcona and Sunrise – both communities with good potential for engagement with our coop.
Throughout this process we are looking to ensure the stability of our own finances while allowing for future growth. This may be addressed by partnering with other coops, developing social enterprises or subletting in the medium term. We welcome any of your ideas along these lines – of course, we would love to have the input, advice and help of our members on any of these topics! Please feel free to contact Brian Beaudry at president (at) vancouvertoollibrary.com.