David Eby visited Science World like a prime minister announcing good news.

“It’s bring your kid to work day here with my son Ezra,” he remarked, pointing to one of the many children at the Science World news conference announcing $20 million.

“I cherish any chance to make my job look cooler to Ezra than it is. He didn’t want to attend the council of forest industries conference or the insurance brokers supper.”

Science World is a favorite field trip destination for kids. Adults are nostalgic for Vancouver’s most famous structure.

Given that, why had Science World fallen into such poor shape, with a leaking roof, lights that hadn’t been turned on for a year, a malfunctioning electrical system, and closed exhibits?

The pandemic and earlier management decisions explain it.

Science World’s organizational and architectural complexity also contributes.

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“The challenges here and the opportunities here started with the decision originally to build a temporary dome,” Eby added, explaining why the government took so long to respond.

Science international was formerly known as the Expo Centre, one of numerous facilities built for Expo 86, the summer-long international exhibition that transformed Vancouver’s waterfront and introduced SkyTrain.

The B.C. Pavillion (later the Plaza of Nations) was supposed to be Expo Vancouver’s “permanent legacy,” according to a Vancouver Sun article.

After Expo and the city’s Arts, Sciences & Technology Centre (ASTC) pushed to preserve the building, various levels of government spent $15 million to turn it into a permanent structure and a science-first tourism and educational facility.

The building’s core was still unsustainable.

“I want to give huge credit to Science World and their team for extending the life of this dome beyond the originally planned six months, to here we are 36 years later,” stated Eby.

“Like so many of the infrastructure challenges we face across the province, it has been neglected for too long.”

Charity can’t use land.

Science World’s management is another choice.

After Expo, ASTC ran the facility as a charity, but the city and province kept the land and building.

Science World was supposedly funded by two levels of government.

Science World was unable to use the building or property to generate money or take on debt to address infrastructure difficulties, creating a jurisdictional grey area.

“Charities can only put so much money into big institutions.”

Tracy Redies, Science World CEO, didn’t deny Eby’s claim that Science World needed up to $80 million more.

We hope more people know we’re a charity. This building isn’t ours. Land isn’t ours. We need government funding to preserve this unique institution for generations of British Columbians.”

Creative approaches are needed.

Ironically, Science World is next door to another political issue caused by Expo Lands decisions 35 years ago.

In 1988, Li Ka-shing bought the Expo Lands from Science World to Yaletown for $320 million, including the massive parking lots north of False Creek.

Concord Pacific has owned the land since, and the city hasn’t started viaduct removal since the parking lots haven’t been developed.

Vancouver historian John Atkin remarked, “I think at the time it was the best bad decision the province could make,” because the B.C. government selling the site to one bidder allowed for a unified Yaletown development plan.

Governments’ reduced involvement in the Expo Lands caused complex issues near False Creek’s edge, which they’re now addressing.

“I certainly like to see us be able to make some movement on moving forward on delivering more access to the waterfront,” said Vancouver councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung.

It’s been decades. Yes, we should discuss creative methods to move things forward.”

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