Many residents in Vancouver's West End have worked hard to protect a heritage site
The St. John’s Church Demolition Permit has been issued by the City to West-Bank, Perterson. Gregor Robertson said at Thursday’s speech to the Downtown Vancouver BIA that his “door is always open for new ideas” to make Vancouver a more livable city.
Yet he and his Vision Council have not responded to my proposal submitted two and a half months ago that they explore options for re-use to halt the destruction of St. John’s United Church on Comox Street. West End community organizations have indicated this proposal has merit and should be seriously evaluated.
If the Mayor is serious about being “open to new ideas”, should he not be looking into the feasibility of this proposal, or perhaps some variation, which might come from examining this “new idea”?
What do other City Caucus readers think of this proposal? Should the Mayor live up to his “open door” claim and being “open and transparent”?
Being “open and transparent” means the Mayor should let the public know that they, in cooperation with West-Bank Peterson, are going to give “sober second thought” to the potential loss of this opportunity, and as a part of this process, engage the public in these discussions as he claims to be doing in Thursday’s DVBIA speech.
On the other hand, if they are not going to look at the viability of this option, to tell the Vancouver taxpayers and West End residents why they are not prepared to consider the possibility that the Church and attached hall can easily and affordably become a badly needed addition to the West End Community Centre.
This church is ideally suited to serve local residents. It has served the community for one hundred years with church services, arts, children and youth programs, and programmes for a variety of special interests groups.
In addition to the current shortage of community program space, because of the proposed Denman Place Hotel rental conversion and Maxine’s condominiums / rental development, as well as several other new West End development projects in the works, more community services facilities are needed now.
St. John’s can be converted inexpensively. It can be up and running within six months. In addition, this property can be combined with the aging Gordon house next door in say 10 years time. Capital Plan moneys can then redevelop these combined properties more intensively with a new, larger, say 5 storey West End Community Centre community services facility which will be even more needed at that time given the expanding West End population.
The City should inform Westbank, the developer, the Comox development will not be approved because of its excessive density and inappropriate existing neighbourhood fit. The City should then purchase the property from the developer.
This purchase can be accomplished in a number of ways, including:
- arranging a land swap with the developer to exchange the St. John’s property for other City owned property or properties;
- using ‘Community Amenity Contribution funds from new West End developments;
- purchasing the Church with funds from the ‘Property Endowment Fund’, with that money repaid from a future Capital Plan within the next nine years.
The first, land swap proposal has the advantage of allowing the developer to realize his development objectives on suitable, similar City owned properties. In this way the City will still gain needed housing, the developer can realize his profits and the West End gets a much needed community facility rather than an inappropriate, unwanted intrusion into their neighbourhood. These proposals would not interfere with community centre capital funding in other Vancouver neighbourhoods.
This is a win, win, win solution. And, it can be opened in the middle of the upcoming election campaign by Mayor Robertson. And, that can even be a political win for Vision. We have an opportunity. Let’s not lose it!
- Post by Bill McCreery. Bill is a nominated council candidate running for the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association (NPA). If you're an elected official or candidate seeking a nomination and want to write about urban issues, please send your 450-500 word submission to CityCaucus@gmail.com. Photo Credit: WEN
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