Plans to fully replace the aging, seismically unsafe Eric Hamber Secondary School within Vancouver’s Cambie Corridor have advanced to the development application stage.
The Vancouver School Board (VSB) is seeking to replace the school at 5025 Willow Street — the southeast corner of the intersection of West 33rd Avenue and Oak Street, immediately east of VanDusen Botanical Garden — as part of its seismic mitigation program.
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In April, Bird Construction was awarded the design-build contract for the new Eric Hamber campus worth $92 million.
The new modern four-storey school building will be constructed on the northern footprint of the school site, replacing the existing running track and playing field. The new school is slated to open in 2023, but the existing 1962-built school on the southern footprint will be retained until 2030 as temporary school capacity for students affected by various seismic retrofit and renovation projects across VSB jurisdiction. After the existing school is demolished, its area will become a new replacement playing field.
The replacement building will have a capacity for 1,700 students and about 120 teachers and staff, which is the same as the existing school.
Its functions will be the same as the current facility, including 37 general instruction classrooms, 10 science classrooms, various learning spaces, a library, administrative offices, a multi-purpose room, a large common space, technology education shops, an auditorium, music rooms, and two connected gymnasiums with changing and storage rooms.
The new school will include the added use of a childcare facility located on the fourth floor, with separate access from the rest of the school and an outdoor rooftop play area. This childcare facility will have a capacity for 69 children.
The school’s main entrance, finished with Musqueam First Nation art, will be on the north side fronting West 33rd Avenue, with the length of the curbside used as a designated pick-up and drop-off area. A parking lot east of the building will contain 123 vehicle stalls, with the exit located at the intersection of West 33rd Avenue and Laurel Street, and the exit at Willow Street.
Covered bicycle racks on the east side of the building provide 76 secure bicycle parking spaces, and another 102 bicycle parking stalls are distributed across the site.
“A civic presence is provided by the formal façade fronting West 33rd where the main entrance is located. In response to the smaller scale of the single family homes across the street, the form of the building is broken down into two wings comprised of three and four storeys separated by the main entrance,” reads the design rationale by KMBR Architects Planners.
“The wings are characterized by a robust masonry plinth at the ground floor which contrast with the classroom spaces above that are clad in metal panels with decorative accents. The masonry plinth continues around the entire school as a unifying element. A framing device or ‘eyebrow’ serve to unify the classroom spaces at a middle scale, provide visual interest and avoid long monolithic walls. Ample glazing is provided along this façade to allow interesting views into the school from the street and to take advantage of the exceptional mountain views from within.”
Under the city’s Cambie Corridor Plan, over the next two years, the area is set to see over 50,000 additional residents from the surge in new multi-family residential redevelopments replacing single-family neighbourhoods.
The school site is just west of the Heather Street Lands, the old BC RCMP headquarters, which is set to be redeveloped with 2,300 homes in buildings up to 24 storeys.
VSB forecasts Eric Hamber’s enrolment will gradually increase from 1,668 students in 2020 to 1,750 students in 2025.