The municipality at the centre of British Columbia’s deadly opioid crisis could be home to the province’s largest state-of-the-art drug addiction rehabilitation facility.
Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), BC Housing, and the City of Vancouver are proposing to turn a city-block land assembled site at 1636 Clark Drive and 1321-1395 East 1st Avenue – the northeast corner of the intersection of Clark Drive and East 1st Avenue on the eastern edge of the False Creek Flats – into a new 10-storey drug withdrawal management centre (WMC) with social housing.
The 55,000-sq-ft WMC will occupy the first two levels of the building, containing specialized health care services such as outpatient and impatient withdrawal management and sobering and at-home withdrawal – all within an integrated setting.
It will also have 20 short-term housing units for individuals that have finished detox and are moving towards long-term solutions.
When the new WMC facility opens, Vancouver’s current VCH-operated detox centre at 377 East 2nd Avenue – which is aging, smaller, and no longer meeting current demand – will completely close. The operations of the WMC will allow academic teaching, research, and learning to support staff development and knowledge sharing.
Additionally, as another institutional function, a 3,000-sq-ft space owned by the municipal government will be set aside for a non-profit operator to support indigenous healing and wellness and community economic development.
As for the upper levels of the building, about 60,000 sq. ft. of floor area is proposed for between 60 and 100 units of social housing, with the exact number of units depending on the household unit type.
At least a third of the units will be set to rent at the Housing Income Limits, and 17 existing rental housing units found on the site’s current buildings will be replaced within the redevelopment.
The city-block long building’s form is a podium with two mid-rise structures at the ends, with the easternmost mid-rise spanning more than half the block. But both structures are separated from the third level upwards by a large rooftop patio with a food garden, outdoor kitchen, and small kids play area.
Designed by HDR Architecture and CEI Architecture, the total floor area of the entire redevelopment is about 150,000 sq. ft., and with a lot size of 45,000 sq. ft. the project’s proposed density is 3.34 times the size of its lot (FSR).
The City of Vancouver’s financial contribution towards the facility is estimated at $81.2 million, including $16.7 million for the value of the property’s lease over a 99-year term, $46.5 million for construction, and $18 million for soft costs. Other costs for the environmental remediation of the site have not been established.
“The human cost of addictions is great, but this [facility] is something we can do to help more people struggling with substance use disorders to get connected to services that will help them on their road to recovery,” said Laura Case, CEO of Vancouver Coastal Health Vancouver Community.
“This future development offers a significant opportunity for Vancouver Coastal Health to create greater capacity for and access to withdrawal management and other treatment services at one location.”
But this much-needed facility will likely not be ready until the early 2020s, given that there will be at least another year of planning and public consultation before it is approved. Following further approvals, construction is estimated to take about two years.
However, there will be some near-term relief as a new $101-million replacement mental health and addiction treatment centre being built at the site of Riverview Hospital is expected to open in late-2019.
The opioid crisis continues to worsen year after year, with 1,422 people killed in suspected drug overdoses across BC in 2017 – up by 43% from 2016. Last year’s provincial figure includes 358 deaths within Vancouver and 174 deaths within Surrey.
During the first four months of 2018, a total of 108 people have already died from suspected drug overdoses.