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St. Paul’s leaving the West End – ouch now what?

St. Paul’s to move from the West End – an election promise not fulfilled

First of all, I was very disappointed in the decision by Providence, the City of Vancouver and BC Government to close St. Paul’s Hospital and build a new hospital on Station Street.  The redevelopment St. Paul’s on the existing site was an election promise made by me as the BC Liberal Candidate in 2013 and was highlighted in our platform document. I do wonder what the decision would have been if I was the MLA for the West End but the voters made a different choice.

What caused the change in Plans? – View Corridors, a lack of vision and sticking to the 2003/4 plan

The fundamental issue that forced Providence and BC Government to leave the Burrard site was COV and its refusal to discuss the view corridors policy.  This unique COV policy meant Providence’s request for more height at the Burrard site was discouraged.  Without more height Providence could not build on the current site and pay’s its share because BC taxpayers do not have unlimited funds. Why does this matter?  Because the extra height was required to make redevelopment at this site work & extra floors could have paid for this redevelopment.  The sad part is we could have had a really interesting debate about a new hospital vs a view corridor.  We will not have that debate now.   The Burrard site will be sold to pay for the new Station Street Hospital.  This decision is a win for unimaginative architects and very powerful Health bureaucrats who never liked that election promise to rebuild on the Burrard site.

COV updates the West End plan then promptly rubs salt in our wounds

What most West Enders and the current NDP MLA (a former Vision Parks Board Trustee) must come to grips with is this.  The Vision Vancouver run COV updated the West End plan that included this major employer in our community.  Meanwhile, it appears the COV run by the former Deputy Minister of Health was actually working to move the hospital with Providence.  All of this was happening at the same time. One wonders how the Mayor’s office did not inform the planning department of this major change coming to the West End.  Now, the West End has an updated plan but St. Paul’s 5500 employees will not be there to support our local businesses after 2022 making the plan pretty useless.  Once again the COV has failed the West End.

What will happen to the St. Paul’s site in 2022?

In 2022, hospital operations will move to Station Street and the St. Paul’s land will be in the hands of a developer. Actually the land will be sold much sooner than that as St. Paul’s must fund $750 Million of the $1.25 Billion project costs for Station Street before 2022.  The developer will most likely propose a very tall building that impacts the view corridors because at that point a number of significant towers will be completed or under construction in the area.  Then we will have the debate I just suggested but the public benefit from the development will not be a hospital.

Looking at the hospital from Nelson Park
Looking at the hospital from Nelson Park

A decision has been made – let’s move forward

The good news is Vancouver gets a new hospital on Station Street valued at $1.25 Billion with the Province paying $500 Million max.  The benefits of that location are well known as this was Providence’s preferred plan going back to 2003/4

Right or wrong we have a decision and the public engagement process begins as required. For me and most West Enders VGH is closer than the new hospital on Station Street.  At this point, the BC Government has promised a high quality clinic to support most West End resident needs on the existing site.

My suggestions to improve this decision

The New Hospital on Station Street– What should we call it? Because we could sell the naming rights.  That would help raise much needed funds for this project.

Keep the Name downtown

This new clinic on the current St. Paul’s Site should continue to be called St. Paul’s.  What else would urban residents call it?  It will forever be known as St. Paul’s why fight that.

New High School and an expanded West End Community Centre

King George needs to be replaced & the West End Community Centre needs to be expanded.  This could create a real win-win for the community.  As moving King George back up to Burrard Street would free up space for the Community Centre to expand.  The St. Paul’s site is very central and would serve the growing number of High School age children of urban Vancouver.   The Wall Centre site used to be the King George High School site so this seems only fitting to rebuild there.

The school gym(s) could service as a backup medical overflow facility in an emergency.  The synergy could be amazing.

I have a suggestion on the type of school this should be.  I am thinking a premier sports and arts based school building on our 2010 games legacy – kind of like the one in New York made famous by the movie Fame.  Another Blog to follow on this idea – yes I sought votes on the idea of a new high school downtown too.

Save the Heritage Building

St. Paul’s to be fully restored to its original size and not to be cut up like the Robert Lee YMCA project. Perhaps, it could be a boutique hotel or very unique office building.  Saving Heritage is a win-win in my mind and a public good.

I hope the decision makers at the COV, BC Government and Providence will take these ideas to heart and act on them because I want to find a positive way forward for my community.

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