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Will St Paul’s Hospital move undercut West End plan?

New residences could enliven Vancouver’s gay village, councilor says

Plans to move St Paul’s Hospital to a new facility on the False Creek Flats have some people wondering what this will do to the West End Community Plan and its promise to strengthen the Davie Village “as the heart of the LGBTQ community.”

Following April 13’s sudden announcement of the new hospital by Providence Health Care, Stephen Regan, executive director of the West End Business Improvement Association (WEBIA), brought questions and concerns to Vancouver City Council about how relocating St Paul’s could impact the area’s plan.

In a letter to council, Regan asks, “When the major employment centre . . . is removed from the equation how does this impact other aspects of the plan?”

According to the community plan, which was approved by council in November 2013, the next 30 years will see an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 jobs added to the West End, with St Paul’s Hospital listed as one of the places where most of these new jobs will be located. 

Regan tells Daily Xtra that he was surprised and disappointed by the announcement regarding False Creek Flats.

“We had made a number of assumptions going into the West End plan and the future development of Davie Village that not only would that site remain a vibrant hospital but it would be expanded,” he says. “So we have some questions about what alternatives they’re considering.”

At a planning, transportation and environment committee meeting on April 29, Green Party councillor Adriane Carr was the only city council member to vote against supporting the creation of a new hospital on False Creek Flats, citing potential environmental issues and the need for ongoing health services provision in the West End.

“To me what’s unconscionable is that the provincial government didn’t pay attention to [the West End] plan,” Carr tells Daily Xtra. “They should be thinking about and looking at the documents, which a lot of people have invested time and effort and energy for years, producing their vision for the community.”

Councillor Tim Stevenson, who is gay and acts as city council’s liaison to Vancouver’s LGBTQ advisory committee, says he doesn’t think the hospital’s move will spell disaster for the city’s gay village — even if condominiums, rather than another big employment centre, were to replace St Paul’s.

“It will mean a whole slew of new residences that will affect Davie Street,” he says. “There will be a lot of our community moving into those residences and so that will, I think, help enliven the Village but it will also help merchants because there’s that many more people who are going to be living right next door.”

Stevenson says the West End Community Plan’s policies to strengthen the Davie Village as a nightlife and LGBT entertainment hub can still be implemented without St Paul’s.

“In fact, I can see it being enhanced because the condos and so on will be back enough and away enough from the entertainment zone,” he says.

At WEBIA, Regan says his organization is still waiting to hear whether a shift like this would also open up the West End Community Plan to other changes, such as the building height restrictions along commercial streets like the Davie Village that were adopted as part of the plan.

Stevenson says city planners are best suited to answer that question, but personally he doubts it will be altered drastically.

“This was voted on and the city plan was adopted,” he says. “So changes are pretty hard to come by because of the compromises that were already made with the various [interest] groups.”

Brian Jackson, general manager of planning and development services with the city, says his department is still waiting for more information from the provincial government about their intentions for the St Paul’s site but does not expect changes to the community plan.

“It is not anticipated that any change to St Paul’s would have any impact on other parts of the West End plan. So there’s no desire or need to revisit the other parts of the plan as a result of the provincial government’s announcement,” he says.