There was a very useful meeting last night, open to the public, of the Britannia Planning Committee which is helping to manage the renewal process for the Britannia Community Services site, perhaps the very heart of Grandview. There were some 40+ people there and some useful information was given and taken.
Suzanne Dahlin, chair of the Committee, reminded us that the Britannia renewal project is more than ten years old at this point but now, with the approval by public referendum of the dollars required, the project is moving into a whole new realm of activity. She also made clear that Britannia — with its joint ownership by Britannia Community Services, the Vancouver School Board, the Vancouver Library Board, and some staff working for Vancouver Parks Board — is a unique challenge. She also noted that the pool and the ice rink are considered “regional” facilities, shared with Strathcona and DTES.
The most current news is that, as a result of an RFP issued this summer, the City has hired UrbanArts to be the lead consultants for the next phase of the project. This will include the public engagement section, along with planning for programming and land use. UrbanArts sub-contractors for Britannia are Diamond Scmitt Architects, Integranl for “sustainable infrastructure,” Space2Space who will be looking at the design of the public realm, and Studio Parsons handling public engagement. Their contract takes them up to the point where the Master Plan is agreed, scheduled for December 2017, and an architect will need to be hired to complete and build the project.
Suzanne reminded us that we are not at the “bricks and mortar”stage yet and that we are still dealing with “principles”. She also noted that work will begin this week and so there is nothing yet to report. She noted that the newly-designed website for the Planning Committee will be constantly updated, especially with the documents that are created as the process unfolds.
The “public engagement process” is only broadly-defined at this point, with no details. There were concerns expressed that we should ensure that community leaders, First Nations, Inuit, and Meti peoples, the very poor, and the homeless are included in both the discussions and the decisions. Cynthia Low stressed that we need to be pro-active in approaching these groups, not just wait and hope they approach us.
The meeting then turned to the very important issue of creating and approving Land Use Principles that will govern the design and the actualisation of the Renewal project. It was noted by many with great disdain that the Grandview Community Plan had presupposed social housing on the Britannia site, something that has certainly not been through any public consultation process or agreement. A major reason for creating Principles is to stop this kind of presupposition. The Committee has drafted eight such Principles and they were put to the meeting for discussion (the Principles are more defined than set out below which only tries to capture the essence of the point).
- To retain or expand available green space;
- To maintain existing public views of the moumtains and downtown;
- To retain and revitalize the heritage parts of Britannia HS;
- To ensure that all future partnerships for the site are fully public and transparent, and have been through the public engagement process for the Renewal Project;
- To ensure that any and all land swaps and similar ownership deals concerning Britannia lands be fully public and transparent, and have been through the public engagement process for the Renewal Project;
- That the entire 18 acre site be retailed for public use;
- That the new Britannia should be designed to meet the growing needs of the Grandview community;
- That funding for the project should NOT be reliant on CACs and similar mechanisms for density beyond that agreed to in the Community Plan.
The only Principles that ran into some opposition at the meeting were numbers 4 and 5 where some people wanted to soften the restrictions on the City doing stuff outside the Principles and the public engagement process. However, the majority of speakers agreed that the transparency of the public engagement process was a paramount concern.
It was noted that the end that the Principles will need to be debated with and agreed by all the partners at Britannia (City, VSB, VPB, VLB, etc) and so we should expect some changes to be coming down the pike.
It was a good information-rich meeting and I encourage everyone interested in this vital piece of our community renewal to become engaged in this important exercise.