Summer is on the horizon and one massive venue in downtown Victoria is ready for event season, especially with COVID-19 restrictions easing.
“COVID-19 really hurt event spaces within Victoria. We were already struggling with event spaces before the pandemic,” said Dave Bain, director of events at the Powerhouse.
Located along Store Street in Old District, steps from the south bank of Rock Bay, the Powerhouse is a new event space mixed with a history that dates back centuries.
The 20,000 sq. ft Romanesque-style brick building was designed by former Victoria mayor John Teague, the architect behind City Hall. It cost $15,000 to build and construction wrapped in 1892.
“The building housed the main source of power for Victoria back then. It was founded by the National Electric Tramway and Light Company, which turned into BC Hydro. They did steam combustion there,” said Bain.
Once completed, the Powerhouse provided power to newly electrified street lights and a public transportation tram system, helping modernize Victoria into the twentieth century, according to Canada’s Historic Places.
“What’s interesting about the building is that it’s built to withstand a bomb because they dealt with such volatile power sources,” explained Bain.
The Victoria Heritage Foundation dives further into its deep-rooted past, noting the Powerhouse served various purposes through the 1900s, including in the 50s when it was converted to produce coal gas.
But eventually, the remaining occupants moved out for good and the building was left abandoned. “It sat dormant for quite some time,” said Bain.
That all changed in recent years, however, after heritage developer Chris LeFevre started working with BC Hydro to rebuild the Powerhouse from the inside out and revitalize it for commercial use.
“The building has undergone significant renovations to make it admirable again. It’s quite large and has multiple venue spaces and different businesses running out of it, including a pinball club and Metropol,” said Bain.
“We’ve done quite a bit of updating to make sure that the space is usable, including power, floor space and washrooms—all those things that most people don’t think about when they go into an event space.”
Business is booming
Roughly three months ago, the Powerhouse’s event spaces became available to the public to book. And so far, Bain’s phone has been ringing off the hook.
The uptick in business is offering hope to an industry that’s feeling the brunt of the pandemic, especially after being hit with cancellation after cancellation, according to Bain.
“We’ve not really made it public yet, and I’m doing countless tours with folks because everyone is so interested in seeing a new event space open up,” he said.
“When we originally opened it up, our primary focus was weddings. So we do have quite a few weddings coming, but we’re trying to develop a plethora of all events.”
Bain says the upcoming Victoria Cheese and Meat Festival and Victoria International Wine Festival have booked space at the Powerhouse, as event planners eye the venue for tours as well.
The Powerhouse has also been a hit on the small screen after the 2021 Netflix drama series Maid filmed there, and the upcoming Syfy series Reginald the Vampire saw its cast and crew walk the halls.
“It’s a very utilized building in the film industry because it has such high ceilings and such amazing character,” added Bain.
More details about the Powerhouse can be found online here.