Discussed for at least a decade, an arts and cultural centre in Vaughan’s future downtown will come through a partnership with QuadReal Property Group, which owns 83 acres there.

Vaughan City Council decided as much during a March 19 special meeting, approving plans to develop a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with QuadReal.

Mayor Steven Del Duca chose his address to the annual mayor’s luncheon at the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce the next day to announce the news, telling an audience of 650 it was time to nourish “our community’s soul” and that a new performing and cultural arts centre “will complete the VMC’s evolution into the downtown destination the city has been creating.”

Vaughan is believed to be home to more than 3,500 “creative businesses,” a category which contributes to the arts, entertainment and cultural industries as well as professional, scientific and technical services.

There’s a huge arts and cultural sector in Vaughan and a lot of homegrown talent, but no central place to put it on display, Del Duca said in an interview.

It’s been a challenge finding the exact site for a centre, but QuadReal and its partner Menkes approached the city, believing they can deliver one in five to eight years, said the mayor.

A 2019 feasibility study pegged the ideal number of indoor seats between 800 and 1,000, but Del Duca added he thought it could go as high as 1,200.

The VMC, with its closeness to highways 400, 407 and 7, subway station and bus routes, is one of the best-connected areas in the region.

Promising an arts centre with both indoor and outdoor events may dampen criticism of the VMC by people, including some living in its completed condo towers, that the area lacks amenities, from grocery stores and restaurants to parks.

Del Duca said he is pushing for more retail and amenities such as schools to be built in the VMC sooner, instead of later.

“These things will all come,” he said, noting 10,000 to 11,000 people call the VMC home and many more will move in soon.

“When you have rapid growth it’s hard to make things happen on day one. We’re now at a good tipping point,” the mayor said.

Outside QuadReal and Menkes’ presentation centre in the southern part of the area, banners already proclaim its emerging Assembly Park neighbourhood “the soul of the VMC.”

Jay Claggett, QuadReal’s senior vice president, development, said the VMC will one day have 175,000 residents, 40,000 of those in Assembly Park.

“It’s nice to be able to build a downtown from a blank canvas,” he said around a model of the area.

Claggett said he sees retail, schools, and the arts and cultural centre at Assembly Park as the heart of the plan.

Assembly Park, QuadReal’s future civic hub with a European-style piazza for outdoor events, will stand at one end of a 15-acre east-west urban park. The neighbourhood’s retail spine also ends there, Claggett said.

“It all focuses on that community hub.”

The arts centre, which will include community rooms, should be built by the early 2030s, said Claggett.

Assembly Park now has a new community centre, The Studios at Assembly Park, which will function as a temporary arts centre, with performances and art exhibits during the next five or six years, surrounded by farmer’s markets, community gardens for Vaughan’s food bank and pickleball courts, “a microcosm of what we want to achieve” in the hub, Claggett said.

“We’ll have residents coming in here before full vision is done.”

Some questions about the arts centre – such as who would own it or pay to operate it – remain unresolved.

A Vaughan backgrounder, trying to answer inquiries about the project, said QuadReal and the city will “determine funding, governance, and operational models for the facility” once the MOU is finished.