Oldest community centre in Vancouver to be upgraded after years of discussion

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Reported by Chahira Merarsi

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Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre will be upgraded to accommodate the growing population in the area. Photo by Chahira Merarsi.

Marpole residents hope the long-anticipated renewal of the Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre will bring significant changes.

Albert Leung, the vice-president of the Marpole-Oakridge Community Association, said that community consultation that is due to start soon will play a big part in determining what changes will be made to the centre but one thing is for sure, everyone wants a pool.

“First and foremost, most people ask me, ‘Is there going to be a swimming pool?,’” Leung said. “They’re also concerned about childcare.”

A park-board vote four months ago to renew the centre contained a number of stipulations, including a proposed timeline for the project and a requirement that the board consider adding a “ complementary service,” such as a daycare or the crowd-pleasing swimming pool.

Community centre to be renewed after many years 

The centre, which opened in 1949, is the oldest community centre in Vancouver and, for 16 years, community members have been in talks with the city about a possible renewal. After much back and forth, the Vancouver park board approved the motion to renew at its board meeting June 13.

That was welcome news for the community.

“Us working in [the Marpole-Oakridge Community Association] are very relieved and very happy,” Leung said.

According to Mike Burdick, president of the Marpole-Oakridge Community Association, the renewal of this community centre in particular is crucial because of the growth in Marpole’s population.

“We will be serving the second-largest population in the city as a community centre and we have no amenities,” Burdick said. “We don’t have a pool, we don’t have a rink, we have nothing. So we’re looking for some amenities.”

Although community members are pleased with the motion to renew the centre, they’re only cautiously optimistic due to the roadblocks they faced in the past.

“I think that the best way to handle this kind of situation is to take a very optimistic look but you don’t want to be totally naïve until things are done,” Leung said.

Public consultation process has been delayed

In the park board’s motion, public consultation was set to begin in 2016. However, nothing has been scheduled yet.

Burdick said the road to renewal has been difficult but the Vancouver park board’s approval of the motion is a good sign.

“Whenever you get politicians and bureaucrats involved, things happen or things don’t happen,” Burdick said. “We’ve been trying to negotiate that situation. Is it longer than necessary? Perhaps. But we’re getting good response now and we’re quite happy about it.”

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Many residents would like to see a swimming pool at the upgraded community centre. Photo by Chahira Merarsi.

Despite a 2011 feasibility report that the existing Oak Park location was the best one, there was talk in 2015 of moving the centre to a more high-traffic location at Granville and 67th. Many community members were unhappy about moving away from Oak Park.

“The problem is that the existing community centre is located on Oak Park, which is a huge green space, and you can’t replicate that on Granville Street,” said Burdick.

Money gone missing

In the City of Vancouver’s 2012-2014 capital plan, $10 million was allocated for the renewal of the centre but, in the next capital plan, the money was gone.

“We’ve tried to say ‘Where’s the $10 million?’ and we haven’t really been shown where that is. There’s a level of frustration about that, ” said Norman Zottenberg, an architect and former president of the Marpole-Oakridge Community Association.

Zottenberg says the centre, which has popular youth programs, a gym and a fitness centre, plays a big part in community building.

“Community centres help build a fabric for the community. It ties very different people together, and I think it’s important to feeling a part of community,” Zottenberg said.

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