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Market housing will be part of talks on R’view

Shayne Ramsay is the CEO of BC Housing - BC HOUSING
Shayne Ramsay is the CEO of BC Housing
— image credit: BC HOUSING

PUBLISHED FEB. 21, 2014

The CEO of the agency charged with consulting the public on the future of Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam has vowed his organization will go into the visioning exercise with an open mind.

And that includes the possibility of building market housing on the 244 acres that were once home to a mental-health institution, BC Housing’s Shayne Ramsay told The Tri-City News this week.

“We’re not saying market housing is going to happen absolutely but I expect it to be part of the conversation as we move forward in the process,” he said.

Ramsay made his comments the week before BC Housing is to launch its first of four open houses this year, organizing a draft redevelopment plan for the 102-year-old grounds that contain heritage buildings — most rated in “poor” or “critical” condition — a cemetery and an arboretum.

The drop-in sessions are scheduled in Coquitlam for Thursday, Feb. 27 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Burquest Jewish community centre (2860 Dewdney Trunk Rd.) and Saturday, March 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Poirier community centre (620 Poirier St.).

Besides the open houses, Ramsay said he looks forward to the questions and comments collected through BC Housing’s new website (renewingriverview.com), which has background documents on Riverview’s current assets, among other things.

Ramsay said he hopes stakeholders — including former Riverview staff — who can’t make it to the open houses will reach out through the social media to offer their thoughts on the next steps for Riverview.

“Really, it’s a recognition that Riverview has a provincial perspective,” he said. “It has a lot of local interest but the site and psychiatric hospital had an impact province-wide.”

Ramsay stressed BC Housing has no preconceived outcomes as it develops a land-use plan for the city and he pledged transparency as more studies and numbers are released from Shared Services BC, the current manager, which will transfer responsibility to BC Housing over the next year.

Ramsay cited the Riverview Building Assessment Inventory, completed in December 2013, that is now on the website and shows the cost to upgrade the heritage buildings such as the 1913 West Lawn ($7.2 million) and the 1959 Henry Esson Young ($6.1 million). Both are listed as in “poor” condition.

Still, Ramsay said the visioning process is guided by principles — one of which is to ensure the investment pays for itself.

“This is not a fire sale of a provincial asset,” he said. “All we’re saying is that all the aspirations of the community, First Nations and stakeholders need to be incorporated within a break-even mandate.”

In the meantime, BC Housing will continue with work with current tenants at Riverview and the movie industry — as well as other revenue-generating opportunities — to help lower costs.

As for the maintenance side, Ramsay has promised the grounds will be kept up during and after the visioning process.

 

jwarren@tricitynews.com

 

 

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