THUNDER BAY — The City of Thunder Bay wants to hear from not-for-profit groups interested in operating – or leasing space in – the Baggage Building Arts Centre at Prince Arthur's Landing.
It's issued a request for expressions of interest (EOI) from charitable arts, heritage and cultural organizations, and from individual artists and artisans.
The Baggage Building has been closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Until the pandemic was declared, Angie Jensen, owner of the Painted Turtle Art Shop, operated the building and a gift gallery under a lease with the city.
Jensen told tbnewswatch.com she got involved to show the arts centre could be a sustainable operation.
She said that worked OK until COVID-19 arrived, when it no longer made economic sense for her to continue the arrangement with the city while the building remained closed.
"We won't be going back to do that. We've got to focus on our own store right now through all of this," Jensen said.
The city's EOI request states that for the past eight years, the city-owned facility has been a successful community cultural hub and incubator space.
Besides the gift gallery it included pottery and printmaking studios.
It was also made available to one-time renters for use as programming space for arts-based groups, and for arts exhibitions.
According to the EOI request, the city wants a head tenant and building operator to lease the entire space, taking on administrative management of the building, under an arrangement that sounds similar to what it had with Jensen.
The city is also seeking operators for the pottery studio and printmaking studio.
Applicants are required to describe the potential benefits of their operating plans to the community such as employment and economic development, visitor attraction potential and social impact.
In addition, the city wants to hear from groups or individuals looking for programming space, or wishing to partner with it to deliver core programming in the future.
The deadline for submissions is Oct. 8.
The city has indicated it hopes to reopen the Baggage Building Arts Centre sometime next month.
Jensen said "I'm hoping it works for them. I don't think they'll find somebody who is doing what we did. because it was an awful lot of work and we just basically did it as a not-for-profit gesture. It wasn't making us any money."
She feels a new operator will face challenges related to COVID-19 restrictions, such as cleaning requirements and controlling access to the building.