St. John's Church doesn't have to be demolished says McCreery

Post by Bill McCreery in

9 comments

stjohns_church_demolition.jpg
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:

  1. arranging a land swap with the developer to exchange the St. John’s property for other City owned property or properties;
  2. using ‘Community Amenity Contribution funds from new West End developments;
  3. 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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9 Comments

He is open to new ideas-as long as you can make him believe it was his idea...

It's unfortunate that the lure of STIR (and presumably) advance dicussions with the Planning Department encouraged Westbank/Peterson to buy this site on the basis of a presumed upzone. Now they are poised to create an eyesore in the middle of the neighbourhood while the community and City Council battle about what should be permitted on this site. All of this could have been avoided if the answer from Planning had been "check the zoning" prior to the purchase taking place.

Work it Bill.
Get supporters. Gordon Neighbourhood House, West End Community Centre, the seniors at Barclay House & Roedde Museum, WEBIA, surrounding small businesses, Bed & Breakfasts, Fire Fighters, local media, the Parks Board, the local schools, the residents association.
Start a petition. Get the idea to Penny Ballem!
Be willing to put in a lot of time. Make it an election issue.
If the idea is worth fighting for, it can be done!

Listen to you, one of the little people, one of the rubes?

You gotta be kidding. King Gregor is a Progressive, so he's smarter than you and doesn't need your pathetic ideas.

Now just shut up, line up and bow down as Gregor walks by.

Maybe if your really nice to him he'll invite you to a weekend shindig at Hollyhock . . you too can get naked and jump in the hot tub.

Go Green, save the planet.

The current building itself is only 30 years old and with restoration work could continue to serve the community for quite some time, then be redeveloped. There are few sites left in the West End that could be used for community purposes. The City should have tried harder, but it's still not too late for Westbank/Peterson/Henriquez to do the right thing. And I totally agree with "tf" above: All of this could have been avoided if the answer from Planning had been "check the zoning" prior to the purchase taking place.

Good advice 'tf'. I also need your (plural) help.

This proposal was sent to Gregor and Council almost 2 months ago. I have not had the courtesy of a reply, which is typical of most people I know of who have tried to communicate "creative ideas" through the Mayors"open door".

Time is limited at this point. Westbank have received a demolition permit even though the PROPOSAL has not been scheduled for it's public hearing as yet. I have also appealed to Ian Gillespie who has said via staff that he would follow Council's direction. That puts the ball back into Gregor's court.

Please write to the Mayor and Council and ask them to seriously consider this proposal. Also, if you or others know the groups you mentioned please ask them to get in touch with me and/or also write to the Mayor and Council. I have contacted some West Enders, but as you've illustrated, there's lots more.

"There are few sites left in the West End that could be used for community purposes."

The above is an incitefull and important observation. I have looked at the West End and you're absolutely correct, there are very few sites available now, there will be even fewer as time goes on and they will become more and more expensive to acquire. That's one reason why the property swap idea works so well. It costs the City virtually nothing and the developer not only gets to do his project, albeit somewhere else, but he and the City will pull off a public relations coup. West Enders will be very pleased if this proposal is realized.

I am putting this forward in a non-partisan (no caps) way. there are some issues which go beyond partisan politics, especially when the community interests are so well served. This is one. I hope Gregor can also rise above on this issue.

Sounds like something that should be considered Bill. Thank you. Do you have a link to your proposal somewhere that describes it in more detail and that we can use in promoting this approach? You could also post a copy of the original document that you sent and keep it updated with any responses you receive.

Steven, here are my communications with Council with no replies:

4 February --

Dear Mayor and Council:

I am writing to you to put forward a viable suggestion for your consideration which a number of interested parties consider would be a positive resolution of the impasse with respect to the redevelopment of the St. John's Church property on Comox.

We believe that the City should not grant a demolition permit for St. John’s Church on Comox because it is ideally suited to continue serving local residents. It has served the community for many years providing space for church, the arts, youth programs and special interests groups. More community space is, and will be needed in this neighbourhood with the addition of the Maxine’s development, the proposed Denman Place Hotel conversion and other West End projects in the works.

With your leadership St. John’s Church can and should be saved from the wrecker’s ball. The existing Church would make an excellent addition to the presently over-stretched West End Community Centre facilities, and can easily and inexpensively be converted. It can be up and running within six months, providing much needed community services for all West End residents.

Westbank, the developer, can be informed the Comox development is not appropriate because of its excessive density and inappropriate fit with the neighbourhood. The City can then purchase the property from the developer using ‘Community Amenities Contributions’ funds from the Denman Place conversion and other West End developments. From my discussions with the developer, they will give serious consideration to this proposal if the City requests they do so. Another alternative is to purchase the Church with funds from the ‘Property Endowment Fund’, and repay that money from a future Capital Plan and/or CACs. Either way, this proposal will not interfere with other priority Vancouver community centre capital funding needs.

A second, later phase can be included in a Capital Plan Referendum to replace the existing buildings with a larger structure to better utilize the site, and provide more community services for the growing West End population. This can be linked with a similarly redeveloped Gordon House structure across the lane. West Enders will then have a wonderful, strategically located community facility benefiting all residents.

The City must think strategically. Funding to make this project work is available. I encourage Council to work out a mutually acceptable arrangement with Mr. Gillespie to retain these valuable buildings so they continue to serve the neighbourhood. We have an opportunity. Let’s use it!

Bill McCreery
604-916-3340
billmccreery1@gmail.com

And, 11 April --


11 April, 2011

Mayor Robertson and Councilors

City of Vancouver

453 West 12th Avenue

Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1V4

Dear Mayor and Councilors:

Re: An 11th hour appeal -- A new St. John’s West End Community Centre Annex can be achieved now. And, it’s financially possible.

The St. John’s Church Demolition Permit has been issued by the City to West-Bank, Perterson. Further to my suggestion two months ago that the City explore options for re-use to halt the destruction of St. John’s United Church on Comox Street, I am now making a last minute appeal to you to transfer this valuable community asset to the City. The West End community has indicated this proposal has merit and should be seriously evaluated.

For the benefit of the people of the West End I ask you, in cooperation with West-Bank, Peterson, give “sober second thought” to this proposal, and do so by engaging the public in these discussions.

The Church and attached hall can easily and affordably become a badly needed addition to the West End Community Centre. This facility 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 programs 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 will be needed in the immediate future. St. John’s can be converted inexpensively. It can be up and running within six months.

Westbank, the developer can be informed the Comox development will not be approved because of its excessive density and inappropriate 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;

2) • using ‘Community Amenity Contribution funds from new West End developments;

3) • 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, proposal, the land swap, has the advantage of allowing the developer to realize his development objectives on suitable 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 for 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 will be a political win for Vision. We have an opportunity. Let’s not lose it!

Yours for a better Vancouver,

Bill McCreery

NPA Council Candidate

604-916-3340

billmccreery1@gmail.com

CC: Ian Gillespie, West-Bank, Peterson

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