Councillors yesterday agreed to progress the cost-savings closure move, which lines up the Edinburgh Road arts facility to be packaged together with nearby council offices at Woodbank and Langlands School and sold as a prime development site.
A report to the policy and resources committee said: “These three sites are all in council ownership and connect together to make a larger, more viable development opportunity, for a residential or hospitality use, which could result in the recouping of a significant capital receipt.
“Disposal terms and conditions could be set to ensure the development provides for public greenspace, similar to that available in the grounds of Gracefield at present.”
Councillors yesterday agreed the non-school estate reduction option judged the lowest risk, with identified properties to be repurposed or disposed of by August 2019.
The move is part of a bid to deliver on savings agreed in the 2015-18 three-year budget.
The move is expected to cost £8.5 million, but would exceed agreed savings of £335,000 by reaching a total of £495,100 by the end of 2019/20, over and above the £225,000 revenue savings from 2014/15.
But it has been greeted with unhappiness by Deirdre Cusack, vice-chairwoman of South West Scotland Decorative and Fine Arts Society who exhibit at Gracefield.
She said: “I think that it’s a very retrograde step for the arts world of Dumfries and Galloway.
“We have so few arts centres, and I think it would be a crying shame to lose such a facility.”
Gracefield houses galleries suitable for national exhibitions, 600 pieces of fine art and a sculpture garden, and generates revenue streams through use of its rooms, studios and print studio facilities to let, classes, a café and shop.
Councillors yesterday agreed that an options appraisal should be carried out on alternative methods and locations for the facilities.
Municipal Chambers in Buccleuch Street have been judged a potential alternative location – despite being a Common Good property.