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Qmunity asked to consult sooner for new centre

Don’t wait until June, community members urge

Richard Engelhardt, president of OUR Spaces, wants Qmunity to start consulting the community about plans for a new queer centre right away, rather than waiting until the money comes through in June. Credit: Shauna Lewis

The president of Vancouver’s Out Under the Rainbow (OUR Spaces) Society, is encouraging Qmunity to begin consulting the community sooner than next summer to discuss components for a new queer community centre.

“A consultation is planned for June but I think the community should be updated before then,” Richard Engelhardt says, “so we have a bit of discussion going into June. We need to start talking to one another.”

City council granted Qmunity $7 million on Dec 17 to create a new queer community centre.

Councillors unanimously approved the funds as part of a rezoning application from Jim Pattison Developments and Reliance Properties. In exchange for council’s permission to redevelop sites on Burrard and Hornby streets, Pattison and Reliance will give the city $15.8 million in community amenity contributions to be allocated among several area amenities. At $7 million, Qmunity will receive the largest share of the contribution — nearly half.

“We’re so thrilled. This is such a long time coming, and we couldn’t be happier,” Qmunity executive director Dara Parker said.

Parker expects Qmunity will receive the funding in six months. She says a formal public consultation regarding building plans will take place in June 2014 once a site has been secured.

“We can’t consult when we don’t know where it will be,” she told Xtra. “We want concrete tangibles in place.”

But, she added, Qmunity is open to community suggestions prior to the formal consultation process.

Former city councillor Alan Herbert says he wants regular and ongoing, transparent consultation between Qmunity, other interested community groups and the community at large as plans for a new centre proceed.

“There must be a commitment to a full, public participation process in which all segments of the LGBT public, and others, will have the opportunity to speak, ask questions and hear details in to what I suspect will be an evolving plan for community centre,” he said.

Engelhardt expressed concern about any one organization’s ability to handle a project of this magnitude.

“It’s quite an extensive task to put on a service-delivery organization,” he said.

About 20 speakers supported the Pattison rezoning application at council Dec 17, many under the premise that Qmunity, which has provided resources to the LGBT community for more than 30 years, is in dire need of a new, larger, more physically accessible, multipurpose space.

The few opposed to the application cited view impacts, building shadowing and unaffordable housing as primary concerns.

Drew Dennis, who sits on the city of Vancouver’s LGBTQ Advisory Committee, described Qmunity as “a viable organization” with experience providing services and operating a facility.

“Some people may have some baggage and past history with previous leadership at Qmunity,” Dennis acknowledged. “I absolutely stand behind Qmunity.”

“Qmunity has a long-term history of being able to provide programs to queer people within Vancouver and British Columbia,” agreed Dean Malone, who sits with Dennis on the advisory committee. “There’s no other organization that’s established and able to deliver these types of programs.”

Malone urged community members to be proactive. “People have to be clear that if they have needs that they want the new community centre to serve, they have to contact Qmunity and let them know,” he said.

“The money is coming to our community and now is the time to show leadership and that we respect and are happy to be getting these funds,” he said.