An East Vancouver hotel gets a new lease on life as converted artists’ studios

The City Center Motor Hotel is a curiosity in East Vancouver.

Located on Main Street near Fifth Avenue, this brightly colored low-rise motel was built in the 1950s. Recently sold to a developer, the site is now being given a final hurrah as studio space for local artists before the building will probably be demolished to make way for condominiums.

The idea comes from the mind of David Duprey of The Narrow Group – a local East Vancouver group behind area bars and restaurants like The Narrow and Uncle Abes. Duprey also spent a lot of time creating artist workspaces in empty buildings.

He began his quest to help artists about 15 years ago when he noticed many sites where artists could carve out studios, even if only temporarily.

This is how the City Center Motor Hotel caught his eye.

“I saw an article that said the motel had been sold to Nicola Wealth Management. So I phoned and called them and told them I wanted to turn them into artist spaces. call me back and get a lease,” Duprey explained.

David Duprey says he has worked for years to help artists find available spaces in vacant buildings in Vancouver. The City Center Motor Hotel seemed to fit the bill perfectly. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

For the next two and a half years, at least, artists will be able to work — but not live — in the 70-room motel.

Right now the rugs are torn up and the curtains are pulled back and once that’s done the artists are free to do whatever they want in their workspaces.

Artist Shehzar Abro says he’s thrilled to be able to work in a place that isn’t his apartment.

The painter and animator will share the space with two other artists and pay $200 a month, he told CBC News, as he held his plastic room key in his hand.

Left to right: Artist Shehzar, Narrow Group owner David Duprey and Vancouver Mural Festival project manager Nickolas Collinet stand outside the new artist spaces at the City Center Motor Hotel in Vancouver , in British Columbia, Friday , January 7, 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“Honestly, when this space came about, it was a blessing. One of my biggest challenges was affordability. Vancouver is not a cheap city. And being a student, I’m just starting to earn money from my art,” Abro said.

The Vancouver Mural Festival also joined the project. He plans to wrap the entire motel in murals, down to the sidewalk, and make it a meeting place as well.

“What’s exciting is the integration with the artistic transformation, with the programming and with the creation of places. It all comes together in one exciting project,” said Nickolas Collinet, Project Manager of the Vancouver Mural Festival.

So far, the rooms haven’t all been rented, but Duprey hopes to fill in the vintage seal and see it become an iconic space for a whole new reason.

Nickolas Collinet, the project manager of the Vancouver Mural Festival, outside the Motorized Hotel built in the 1950s. The annual festival sees East Vancouver buildings painted by local and international artists and the organizing group plans to cover the entire building with art before it is demolished for development. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

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