McDonald Lodge more valuable to Dawson City as student residence than rubble

Yukon NDP Leader Liz Hanson has written the following letter regarding the planned knocking down of McDonald Lodge and potential alternative uses for the building:

The Yukon Government should put a halt on the demolition of McDonald Lodge until it has worked with the Yukon School of Visual Arts (SOVA) to explore the possibility of re-purposing it as a student residence.

The Klondike, and the people who live there, have a unique history. From the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in first peoples to the dreamers seeking their fortunes during the Gold Rush, the Dawson City area has nurtured, and sometimes forced, a spirit of ingenuity and creativity.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the creation of Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) and SOVA.

Almost twenty years ago, a group of local artists formed the Dawson City Arts Society (DCAS), a non-profit organization that sought to enrich the community’s quality of life and create an art-based economy in Yukon. The society envisioned the opening of an art centre for the teaching, performance and exhibition of visual, performing, media and literary arts. Building on the history and success of largely volunteer-driven events like the Dawson City Music Festival they decided that art education based in Dawson City was an idea whose time had come. In 2007 the Yukon School of Visual Arts opened in Dawson City.

And in true Dawson fashion, they decided to resurrect several old and long-neglected buildings to become the core of what is now SOVA. SOVA has been clear over the past few years that one of the key challenges to the success and growth of its acclaimed arts program is the lack of affordable housing for students attracted to Dawson from across Canada.

In our community meetings in Dawson this issue has arisen time and again. When the decision was made to replace McDonald Lodge, the Yukon NDP along with Dawson City citizens asked the Yukon government to consider repurposing the old McDonald Lodge for use as a student residence. Anyone who has ever visited the old lodge realizes that potential it holds for that purpose.

Despite committing to examining the potential of converting the old McDonald Lodge into housing units for SOVA, the Department of Highways and Public Works did not look at options for renovations and the Yukon government now plans to tear it down.

What is so different in 2016 from the fall of 1998, when the DCAS obtained the historic Odd Fellows Hall in Dawson City? Why is the Yukon Party government unwilling to work with the board of KIAC, the other community associations, and the private sector? Why not work with the community to encourage the same enthusiastic volunteer participation that resulted in the major renovations that successfully resurrected neglected structures?

The Yukon government can either be a partner to the ongoing success of KIAC and SOVA, or it can create a barrier to that success by removing the potential for a place for students to live while studying and living in Dawson City. A Yukon NDP government would work with – and not against – the community by exploring all options.

In the interest of good government and good, evidence-based decision-making, we call on the government to halt any action towards demolition of McDonald Lodge until all options have been considered.