June 6th Update:
The Mayor’s motion addresses this recommendation in its entirety and we applaud Mayor and Council for their willingness to consider supporting these recommendations and thereby empowering community partners to deliver greater community benefit for nearby neighbourhoods, new Canadians, and the region more generally. We are encouraged by the overwhelming support shown by housing, childcare, and cultural service providers, who wish to respond to City’s Requests for Expressions of Interest to provide some or all of these services. We hope that letters of support from residents in North Park, Downtown, and Quadra Village, as well as Victoria’s most prominent architecture firm, D’Ambrosio Architecture and Urbanism will also be reassuring and encouraging to Council when making their decision to support the Mayor’s motion.
Addition of critical community infrastructure – affordable housing and child care, and a community centre prioritizing services for the neighbourhoods’ diverse cultures)
To include critical housing and social infrastructure for the community, Council directs staff to develop and enter into one or more Community Benefit Agreements (CBA) between the City, operating partners and neighbouring community. These CBAs will be used to plan and design:
a) Park improvements and develop both a Park disruption plan for 2018-2021, and a Park master plan, inclusive of budget and timeline for improvements.
b) A Community Centre with affordable housing and childcare to be situated next to the new Crystal Pool in the footprint currently allocated for a surface parking lo, with the parking demand diverted to neighbouring parking lots and/or paid underground parking.
a) Preserving Public Parks
The current design of the Crystal Pool proposes a surface parking lot for 100-140 vehicles. This parking lot, in addition to the larger footprint of the new facility will significantly decrease the amount of green space in Central Park and the quality and access neighbouring residents have to recreate and enjoy the outdoors.
Parking Lots and Parkades
North Park is home to the two largest City-owned surface parking lots in Victoria with 500 parking spaces on the Save-On Arena and Royal Athletic Park lots. These will provide convenient parking for Crystal Pool patrons except on the occasions where there is a major event at the arena or Royal Athletic Park. Downtown and Harris Green host five City parkades with nearly 2000 spaces, and two City-owned surface lots with another 300 spaces, in addition to 3000+ metered and unmetered on-street parking spaces. This calls into question the need for a surface parking lot with over 100 parking spaces next to the new Crystal pool, which will pave over precious park land and limit the recreation opportunities for park users. All privately owned public parking lots and parkades are also situated in these three neighbourhoods or on their immediate border.
Map of City-owned and privately-owned public parkades and parking lots
North Park, Downtown, and Harris Green share one park, Central Park. These neighbourhoods have been identified by the City as being parkland deficient. Victoria’s Official Community Plan (OCP) proposes six new parks in the City to address gaps in neighbourhood access to parks. Of these six, one is recommended for North Park and another for Harris Green. Property acquisition by the City (taxpayers) would be required to create green space in all six of these proposed areas.
Map of existing parks and proposed new parks for areas identified as deficient per OCP:
b) A New Community Centre for Underserved Neighbourhoods with Affordable Housing and Childcare, Community Kitchen, Welcome Centre, and Space and Services for both Seniors and Youth
The current project scope is best described as an asset replacement of an aging aquatic facility rather than asset optimization of scarce public land and resources. Scoping this project as a replacement means critical facilities that have eluded the city and the immediate surrounding neighbourhoods in the past are perpetuated despite the opportunities presented by this significant site redevelopment and the unparalleled federal and provincial government funding available for social infrastructure and housing.
Affordable housing and childcare have been identified as the top priorities by each of the federal government, provincial government, City of Victoria, and the Victoria Chamber of Commerce. Similarly, it is well recognized by all that the most significant challenge to providing affordable housing and childcare is finding and securing the land at an affordable price.
Housing & Childcare
A significant amount of capital funding from senior levels of government is currently available for each of housing and childcare. Non-profit housing providers have been contacted and believe this site is optimal for housing. These providers have access to funding and borrowing, and are ready to respond to a market sounding or RFP if the City were to issue one. BC Housing is also enthusiastic about housing on this site.
Not only is sufficient funding available for the provision of housing and childcare without financial contribution by the City and its taxpayers, some payment to the City for land value would be available from the chosen housing provider. Revenues from the sale of air rights to housing providers could contribute to the unfunded portion of the capital costs for community centre; 77% of the community centre is eligible for funding through Infrastructure Canada’s Community Culture and Recreation funding, the same funding source being pursued for the Crystal Pool. Additionally, the provision of housing atop the community centre could share in the cost of placing parking underground for Crystal Pool visitors and residents of the housing complex.
A New Community Centre
It is proposed that this community centre would be operated and/or supported by one or more of the non-profit agencies situated in North Park and Downtown that provide services to the neighbourhoods’ culturally diverse residents. Not only are these agencies the most appropriate operators of the proposed community centre, with increasing development pressure on North Park and Downtown, the tenancy of these important agencies is increasingly uncertain and unaffordable.
Potential partner organizations to the community centre include, but are not limited to:
- The Intercultural Association
- Victoria Immigrant Resource Centre Society
- Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council (IS-PARC) hosted by the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres
- Hulitan Family Services
It is proposed that the new community centre would also work in partnership with other neighbouring cultural spaces (e.g. Masjid Al-Iman mosque and Philippine Bayanihan Centre), non-profit housing agencies (Pacifica Housing, M’Kola Housing, Greater Victoria Housing Society, and Anawim House) and schools (George Jay, Central, Vic High, Victoria Chinese Public School, etc.).
Subject to engagement with the community and these potential partners through the CBA planning process, the community centre, may include:
- Childcare that is culturally appropriate for FN and other ethnically diverse populations. Childcare could be supported and/or operated by one or more of Hulitan Family Services, ICA, and VIRCs perhaps.
- A community kitchen for social enterprise and job/skills training. This kitchen could potentially be operated by/in partnership with the International Women’s Catering Co-Op and Island Chefs Collaborative
- Welcome centre for immigrants and newcomers to Victoria and the region. Relocation of ICA and/or VIRCs programming and/or administration perhaps.
- Seniors centre. A local satellite for delivery of Silver Threads programming and perhaps administration, with culturally relevant programming supported by ICA/VIRCs/Native Friendship Centre.
- Youth space. A recreation extension for Foundry Victoria/Victoria Youth Clinic, Masjid Al-Iman, and IS-PARC perhaps.
Funding for the community centre is available through Infrastructure Canada’s 10 year Investing in Canada Plan, through the Community Culture and Recreation funding stream which is to be launched in September 2018. Federal contributions of 40% are available when the province contributes 33%. This is the same funding stream being pursued for the Crystal Pool Recreation Centre. The Community Centre application could be submitted as part of the Crystal Pool application though the inclusion of the community centre with childcare housing atop likely demonstrates greater value for money, the leveraging of other partners and funders, and an emphasis on improving quality of life and social inclusion of vulnerable populations, all of which are noted in the Federal funding stream’s outcomes-based intentions and evaluation criteria.
Community Centres and Seniors Centres
The City of Victoria currently owns, maintains, and pays the operating costs of 7 community centres and 3 seniors centres. The 10 City-supported community and seniors centres provide critical social infrastructure with childcare, community kitchens, and other space and programming for seniors, youth, non-profit orgs and social enterprises.
North Park, Downtown and Harris Green are the only densely populated neighbourhoods in Victoria without either a community centre or seniors centre. These three neighbourhoods have the greatest population density (residents/m2) and highest population growth.
The proposed community centre will serve North Park, Downtown, and Harris Green residents and the organizations and agencies that support them. North Park and downtown/Harris Green are home to the greatest number of traditionally underserved populations in Victoria based on housing tenureship, income/wealth, and race/ethnicity.
Map of City of Victoria Owned and Funded Community and Seniors Centres: