Province orders heritage conservation plan for Riverview
Riverview Hospital will be studied again, this time for a new heritage conservation plan (HCP) commissioned by the province.
The request for proposals was issued in November 2011 and awarded in January to North Vancouver-based Denise Cook Design. When the Provincial Health Services Authority vacates the property by the end of this year most of Riverview's rentable space will be vacant, the RFP document states, leaving the future of the 244 acres "uncertain."
The HCP is expected to help guide future planning and ongoing site management at Riverview.
What it won't do is suggest any future land use plans, and that has members of the Riverview Preservation Society less than impressed.
"I don't think it means a heck of a lot as far as preserving the site," said society director Sue Haberger. "It's really just an inventory."
The heritage conservation plan comes after the provincial government, as owner of the Riverview lands, refused to support a bid to have Riverview named a national historic site.
Haberger said the province refused to approve a process that would evaluate the site to determine whether it even qualified for inclusion on the national historic register.
"They counter-offered with this heritage conservation plan, so in a sense it's a good thing," Haberger said.
The RFP document notes that after 100 years of being a place of "healing, caring and tranquility" for people suffering from mental illness the hospital will soon be closing, adding its "legacy as a place of care and healing will remain."
As stewards of the site, the province "is committed to balancing environmental leadership, heritage stewardship and community aspirations with the needs of B.C.'s citizens as the future of the lands is considered."
Haberger said she tries not to be cynical, but wonders why yet another study is needed when there is already a stack of them, including Riverview Reminisces (1992), BC Building Corporation's heritage evaluation (1995), the province's own Riverview land use plan (1996), the Riverview Horticultural Centre Society's Land Use Position Paper (2003) and Coquitlam's For the Future of Riverview report (2005).
"We've had the heritage studies, we've had the arborist study and the arboretum plan... and nothing's happened," Haberger said. "It's a lot of fancy words and pretty pictures and glossy reports. The cynical part of me says it's just a big stall."
In an email, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government said the HCP is "the most effective means of understanding, acknowledging and protecting the lands' heritage values."
The ministry also notes the HCP differs from previous Riverview studies that were more technical in nature, in that it will be "values-based, and will focus on understanding the multiple heritage values of the site."
And while the HCP will assess the impact of "potential future management actions" on the site, and will be used to inform enduring management of the lands, it will not seek consultation on potential future uses of the lands. According to the ministry, planning for the future use of the land will begin after the HCP is completed.
Any strategies recommended in the HCP will guide the "retention and management" of Riverview's heritage values and will inform future land use planning activities, the ministry stated.
Coquitlam Coun. Mae Reid, who chairs the Riverview task force, said she hopes the heritage conservation plan will bolster the city's preferred future for Riverview as a wellness centre or research setting, but remains doubtful.
"We can control the zoning but if the province really wants to do something, let's face it, they can do it," Reid said.
The province is paying up to $95,000 for the study, which is due this fall.