COLUMN: Forging a new hub at New Westminster's Anvil Centre

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It could have turned out bad.

Putting something as important as the naming of a civic centre to a committee could have led to some horribly lame pablum.

Consensus can lead to something as bland as a name like The Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts.

But with the unveiling this week of Anvil Centre, the new name of the Downtown multi-use civic facility, the City of New Westminster has chosen a name that’s durable, and grounded in something authentic and (pardon the pun) solid.

Until now, the working title of “Multi-Use Civic Facility” has been accurate but also highlighted the fact this new facility is hard to pin down.

What is it going to be?

It won’t be a community centre, in the traditional sense. A cultural centre? Nope.

A trade and exhibition centre? Strike three.

But it will be a combination of all of the above.

And more. When it opens in 2014, it will include a museum, a lacrosse hall of fame, a 350-seat theatre, dance space, a fine arts studio.

There will be meeting rooms, a visitors centre and more.

Will it work?

Or will it be a huge mess? What’s the glue that will hold it all together?

A proper name is a decent start.

The city’s arts and culture manager Greg Magirescu says the community stakeholder committee—the group that helped come up with the name­—tried to make sense of these multiple personalities.

They brainstormed: What else is multi-functional?

Sofa beds came to mind, but all agreed that wasn’t a flattering example.

A Swiss Army knife was better. Great tools and doo-dads. Portable. Refined. Stylish (as long as it’s not on a loop hanging from your belt). I don’t know where that all led, though.

The group also looked at the New Westminster’s over-arching theme: past and present, with the civic centre’s location in mind. It’s being built at the corner of Eighth and Columbia streets, a spot aptly described as the gateway to Downtown.

Look one way and you see the Westminster Trust building, the city’s first skyscraper.

And on the other there’s the newly branded Shops @ New West Station with its three soaring towers above.

“We wanted to link the two,” Greg Magirescu told me this week. “The tradition and the heritage with the contemporary.”

Which is where the Anvil Centre name comes in.

As many know, “anvil” refers to the Ancient and Honourable Hyack Anvil Battery, well known for its explosive annual display at Queen’s Park Stadium during the Hyack Festival, the traditional firing of the anvil.

And it is with aid of the anvil that blacksmiths forge something new.

At the new Anvil Centre, the goal is for it to become an incubator for the city, its creative centre, where new things emerge, through dance and art classes, business conferences and other social gatherings.

With all these uses there might be some great cross-pollination going on at Anvil Centre.

That’s probably why the naming group talked about The Hive being a good name.

Glad they changed their minds.

Chris Bryan is editor of the NewsLeader.

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