Important Dates for the Calendar

May 21, 2017

The Britannia Renewal project is moving ahead rapidly with a regular schedule of meetings and workshops. The next three are the following:

  • May 23, 7:00pm to 8:30pm:  Designing Safe Spaces.  Meeting in the Britannia Ice Rink Mezzanine. Speakers will discuss the design of spaces with two spirit, trans and gender variant, and women’s safety in mind.
  • May 27th, noon to 3:00pm: Public Outdoor Spaces Workshop.  Meeting in Gym D. Help imagine the kinds of public outdoor spaces the new Britannia could include.
  • May 29th, 5:00pm to 7:00pm. Housing on the Britannia Site. Meeting in B-Lab, Info Centre, Napier Street. There is a suggestion (perhaps even a requirement) that housing be included on the renewed site. What do you think about that?  Come along and debate the issues.


The Next Speaker …

April 24, 2017

…in the Britannia Renewal Speakers’ Series will be Ouri Scott, architect, and David Ramslie, sustainability planner. Their topic will be Learning and Community Growth and will take place on

Thursday May 4th, 7:00pm at Britannia High School Auditorium

I think it’s really about an approach to the environment. Not talking about the technical sense of the environment, but the sense of place. Honouring the past of that place, thinking about who and what came before, from people, trees and animals. And making references to the past and to cultural heritage.” – Ouri Scott

Everyone is welcome!

Library as Community

April 21, 2017

Last night I attended the latest in the Britannia Renewal Speakers’ Series. This was a presentation on the unique role of the public library in building community given by Asa Kachan, CEO of the Halifax Library system. There were perhaps just three dozen in the audience. She was an excellent speaker and deserved more.

Halifax has recently opened a new Central Library. It was this space — and the process by which it was designed — that was the central feature of the presentation.  The previous building, a 1950s slab, was no longer relevant or attractive to the current generation; the new building is entirely different. The concepts and design ideas were developed during an active and extended community engagement phase, primarily using World Cafe methods.

As a meaningful symbol of the engagement of the local community, the library handed out 400 pairs of scissors to residents to cut the ribbon in opening day.

Ms. Kachan repeated often that a modern library needs to be both “purposeful and surprising;” that the purpose of libraries and other public spaces is to “change the quality of people’s lives.”  The Halifax Library has been designed to be open and participatory, with flexible spaces that many groups and individuals can self-curate.  As she stressed, if you build good spaces, people will use them imaginatively.

The speaker also emphasised that the community engagement process does not end with the construction project. The same importance of public input continues into ongoing operations and programming.

It was an inspiring presentation in which she stressed that the library is for the people not the librarians, giving examples of how a library can make a significant difference to an individual. She noted that Halifax is a welcoming open library for the homeless and others without other access to technology. There is a new encouragement to include food with library activities and to make the library part of a food security network.

Throughout Ms. Kachan’s presentation — and especially in the Q&A within which a wide range of library-use topics were discussed — I got the sense that she would like to add even more of the social services and community components that already form part of the Britannia continuum. In turn, Halifax’s experience is one we should keep closely in mind as we develop the Britannia library as part of the renewed Centre.


Dates for Calendar

April 15, 2017

There are two meetings of interest at Britannia this coming week.

On Tuesday 18th April at 7:00pm in the Info Centre Boardroom, there is the regular monthly meeting of the team planning the Britannia Renewal Project. the agenda this month includes a discussion on housing, a report on the lease negotiations, an update on the speakers’ series, and other items of interest.  All are welcome.

On Thursday 20th April, at 7:00pm in the Britannia Library, there will be a discussion with Asa Kachan, Chief Librarian of Halifax Public Library. The topic will be “Learning and Community Growth” and again, everyone is welcome.

This Thursday would also have been the regular monthly meeting of the Grandview Heritage Group, but we believe the Library discussion to be of such interest that GHG has canceled this month’s meeting and will meet again in May.


GWAC, Britannia, and Reconciliation

March 28, 2017

Next Monday evening, in lieu of their regular monthly meeting, GWAC is encouraging its members to attend a presentation on “Reconciliation & Renewal”, given by Yvonne Rigsby-Jones from Reconciliation Canada.

The meeting takes place:

Monday April 3rd, 2017, 

6:00pm:  Community meal

7:00-8:00pm: meeting and discussion

Britannia Community Services Centre, Gym D


To quote the GWAC notice:

How can the Britannia Renewal project inspire positive change and engage community members in dialogue and transformative experiences that revitalize the relationships among Indigenous peoples and all Canadians?

The new 2017 GWAC Board of Directors will be there and they welcome your views and comments,


Next Date For Britannia

January 19, 2017

The first meeting of the new year for the Britannia Renewal Project takes place on Tuesday 24th January in the Info Boardroom, Napier Street, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm.

This will be chance to meet with the various project consulting partners — Urban Arts Architecture, Diamond Schmidt, EcoPlan, Space 2 Place, and Integral.

The meeting will also look at an update to the Renewal Visioning, a review of Britannia Management Priorities, and further discussion on Draft Land Use Principles.

Should be of interest to all who are concerned for the future of this massive community resource.


Britannia Renewal Meeting

November 16, 2016

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).

  1. To retain or expand available green space;
  2. To maintain existing public views of the moumtains and downtown;
  3. To retain and revitalize the heritage parts of Britannia HS;
  4. 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;
  5. 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;
  6. That the entire 18 acre site be retailed for public use;
  7. That the new Britannia should be designed to meet the growing needs of the Grandview community;
  8. 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.