West End Community Centre and King George high school to be redeveloped

Sep 14 2021, 9:08 pm

Public consultation is set to commence on the redevelopment and expansion plans for the West End Community Centre and King George Secondary School in downtown Vancouver.

The municipal government announced today a “virtual launch” of the planning process would be held next week, and that will transition into further online engagement such as surveys and workshops asking the community what they would like to see.

The current facilities at the community hub are ageing and not sized for the growing population in the downtown peninsula, particularly the level of growth catalyzed by the city’s West End Community Plan.

The area’s population is forecast to grow by 10,000 people between 2013 and 2043, which roughly represents a growth of about 20%. But this is likely a conservative estimate given the scale of the developments underway, and the redevelopment potential of St. Paul’s Hospital after it closes later this decade.

In collaboration with the Vancouver School Board (VSB), the city is looking to replace West End Community Centre with a larger new-build facility, including a new ice rink and an expanded Joe Fortes Library. There could also be seniors’ spaces, arts and culture facilities, childcare, new outdoor amenities, and a new on-site facility for Fire Hall No. 6, which is currently located about two blocks away in an ageing building.

The existing community hub is framed by Denman Street to the west, Haro Street to the north, Barclay Street to the south, and a pedestrian pathway and residential buildings to the south.

west end community centre king george secondary school

Aerial of the existing West End Community Centre and King George Secondary School. (Google Maps)

west end community centre king george secondary school

Exterior of the existing West End Community Centre and King George Secondary School. (Google Maps)

The redevelopment would also entail a replacement and expansion of King George Secondary School, which is currently in a 1963-built building on the Barclay Street side of the hub.

VSB has deemed the existing King George building as in “very poor condition” and one of the most seismically vulnerable structures in its school system, at risk of a catastrophic failure in the event of a major earthquake.

According to the school board’s latest long-range facilities plan, King George’s enrolment in 2019 was 535 students — well above its operating capacity of 375 students. Enrolment demand at King George is expected to grow to 770 students by 2029.

Enrolment at King George is already “suppressed” due to its limited capacity, and a lack of expansion would lead to waitlists and the catchment area’s greater dependence on Kitsilano Secondary School.

VSB has outlined a possible option of building a new King George with a capacity for 1,000 students — an increase of 625 students over the existing operating capacity. However, this re-built expansion option has not been supported by the provincial government to date, nor is there any funding available for a basic seismic upgrade of the current building.

west end community centre king george secondary school

Exterior of the existing West End Community Centre and King George Secondary School. (Google Maps)

The municipal government originally budgeted $10 million in the 2019-2022 citywide capital plan towards planning and design work for the redevelopment, but this was reduced to $2 million by city council under the recalibrated capital plan due to the pandemic and the need for “a longer planning phase to ensure adequate public engagement.” The design work has been deferred to the next capital plan starting in 2023.

Early this year, the city and Vancouver Park Board began public consultation on the rezoning needed for the $500-million Britannia community hub project. Based on the 2018 approved master plan, the 18-acre Britannia site would be reconfigured to allow for an expanded school, new and enhanced public spaces, replacement community and recreational facilities, new cultural spaces, and affordable rental housing.

In July 2021, the city council approved the rezoning application for a new additional Coal Harbour elementary school in a complex that also contains social housing. This project is also related to a new replacement Lord Roberts Annex elementary school at Nelson Park as part of a BC Hydro utility upgrade.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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