BC Hydro, Vancouver School Board revisit plans for underground substation in West End

Apr 14 2018, 5:35 am

After first proposing the idea in early 2017, BC Hydro and the Vancouver School Board are revisiting the idea of building a new underground substation at the Lord Roberts Annex property in the West End and consultation with the community is expected to begin in the coming weeks.

“BC Hydro’s electricity system in downtown Vancouver is ageing and a new substation in the West End is required to ensure that residents continue to receive reliable power,” said BC Hydro in a statement.

The proposal to the Vancouver School Board involves BC Hydro acquiring the rights to build a new substation underground at the Lord Roberts Annex property at “a fair market price.”

BC Hydro said that any agreement would provide “significant benefits” to the community, which includes funding to build a new Coal Harbour School sooner than expected, a new playing field at the Lord Roberts Annex site and space there for a full-sized elementary school after the substation is complete.

According to public consultation documents, BC Hydro will fund the construction of a new school in Coal Harbour, to be completed as early as 2020, in order to accommodate the relocation of students at Lord Roberts Annex in the West End’s Nelson Park.

When the Coal Harbour school is completed, demolition will begin on the old Lord Roberts Annex building.

A new school building will be constructed over the underground substation, and both could be operational by 2025.

Conceptual diagram of an underground substation built under a new Lord Roberts Annex school building and field at Nelson Park in Vancouver’s West End. The Coal Harbour school will remain following the completion of the substation project and the reopening of Lord Roberts Annex. Daycare facilities could be incorporated into both new schools. (Image by: BC Hydro)

Artistic rendering of an underground substation built under a new Lord Roberts Annex school building and playing field at Nelson Park in downtown Vancouver’s West End. (Image by: BC Hydro)

Diagram showing proposed power infrastructure placements at Nelson Park. (Image by: BC Hydro)

Since originally unveiling its idea, BC Hydro said it has explored “all available options” for a new substation in the West End, which would take up almost half a city block if it were built above ground.

Most suitable properties are currently being used for housing, which would need to be removed if purchased for a future West End substation.

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“With land in downtown Vancouver being scarce and expensive, we believe that an underground substation is the best option to meet the long-term electricity needs of the West End community,” said Chris O’Riley, BC Hydro’s President and Chief Operating Officer.

“By going underground, we would eliminate the need to purchase expensive, private property and potentially take away housing stock from the area, while also providing significant funding to the downtown Vancouver school community.”

BC Hydro and the Vancouver School Board will begin consultation with the West End community on the proposed plan in May.

Vancouver School Board will hold engagement sessions with parents and stakeholder groups, and BC Hydro will hold open houses, small group meetings and online consultation. Following this, the Vancouver Board of Education will make a decision on the proposal at a public board meeting in June.

“The West End needs additional school spaces for the growing community of families there, so we are interested in exploring this proposal to see if it could provide a worthwhile and safe solution,” said Janet Fraser, Chair of the Vancouver Board of Education. “We look forward to hearing the input from our stakeholders and parents about this proposal.”

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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