A new public park owned and operated by the City of New Westminster will celebrate and pay tribute to the municipality’s early Chinese-Canadian community as part of an ongoing Chinese reconciliation process.
The municipal government is considering a park and garden design at 824 Agnes Street in the downtown area – about two blocks away from New Westminster Station – that acknowledges the property’s Chinese history, as it was formerly the location of the Chinese ‘Old Man’s Home’ built in 1905.
The 8,600-sq-ft mid-block site, previously owned by the Chinese Benevolent Association (CBA), acted as an informal community centre for New Westminster’s Chinese community, with usages such as a school, hospital, and residential care facility for seniors.
However, in 1979 just before the CBA disbanded, the site was transferred to the municipality, and the heritage building was subsequently demolished due to disrepair and vandalism.
In recent years, the property has been used as a temporary off-leash dog park, which will be relocated to another nearby site once construction begins on the new purpose-built park.
While the City is leading the design process for the new park, funding for construction – about $1.1 million – is being provided by Jago Development Inc. as a community amenity contribution for its proposed residential tower redevelopment at 810 Agnes Street, which is immediately north of the proposed park site.
Additionally, the redevelopment’s western edge with the park could potentially include 3,500 sq. ft. of City-owned indoor community space for uses such as recreational programming or retail.
Early design concepts for the park and garden space by local landscape architectural firm Hapa Collaborative include utilizing concepts inspired by classical Chinese garden design principles, such as the design of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in downtown Vancouver.
The design, using high-quality materials, will also “tell the story of the site” with the creative integration of text and images and “employ metaphor to connect the site’s history to the universal struggles of discrimination and reconciliation.”
All of this is to be balanced by feng shui.
Currently, three different park design concepts are being considered:
The municipal government says the design of the park is being created in conjunction with various stakeholders such as the Canadians for Reconciliation Society, Chinese Benevolent Society of Vancouver, Chinese Canadian National Council, New Westminster Chinese Society, New Westminster Multiculturalism Advisory Committee, and the New Westminster Downtown Resident’s Association.
The park design and consultation process is also being funded by the developer.
A preferred design for the park will be released later this spring for further public consideration.