Survey says: There should be a wellness role for Riverview Hospital lands

Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam. - tri-city newS FILE PHOTO
Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam.
— image credit: tri-city newS FILE PHOTO

The 102-year-old Riverview Hospital grounds in Coquitlam should return as a wellness hub for people with mental illness.

That’s the top priority for hundreds of people who filled out forms during the first round of consultation for the BC Housing visioning study.

The results, which are due to be released to the public next week, were announced at the city’s Riverview Lands Advisory Committee last Thursday, a day after Coquitlam city council was briefed at an in-camera meeting.

Having a component of the 244 acres left for mental health treatment is a message “we certainly heard loud and clear from the open houses,” said Shayne Ramsay of BC Housing, which will be taking over the Lougheed Highway property next April from Shared Services BC.

BC Housing staff will now be speaking with health authorities — including Fraser Health, Coastal Health, Provincial Health Services and Coast Mental Health — about what could be accommodated at Riverview to re-establish services, the CEO said.

Coquitlam Coun. Craig Hodge, who chairs the city’s advisory committee, said more than a third of online and open house survey respondents cited mental health as their first priority for the future of the provincially owned site that closed in July 2012. Their other top priorities are (in descending order): keeping green spaces, preserving the arboretum, restoring the heritage buildings and building social/affordable housing.

Hodge said the latter point raised a few eyebrows with his committee, which is made up of former Riverview staff, environmentalists and land stewards.

“There are few questions about how this could be compatible,” he said, adding, “Personally, I don’t want to see anything permanent. I would like to see something to support mental health study.”

Still, Hodge said, the first four priorities for respondents jive with what the municipality has been calling for since 2007. “People believe there’s still a role for mental health at Riverview,” he said.

But Darrell Burnham, executive director for Coast Mental Health, which serves around 4,000 clients, said if Riverview goes back to a wellness centre, people with mental illness should be cared for in new or revamped facilities similar to those Fraser Health operates at Connolly and Cottonwood lodges.

“There’s a need and a site and the two should be brought together,” Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said.

Meanwhile, BC Housing is trying to generate revenue by offering more short-term leases at Riverview. Maintaining the grounds costs Shared Services BC about $3.5 million a year and it recoups about $1 million annually from film and television production (outside of movie studios, Riverview is the most filmed at site in Canada).

BC Housing has said it needs to make the Riverview redevelopment — and possible repurposing of the heritage buildings — worth the investment and has called for any work to “break even.”

• Open houses for the second round of Riverview consultations — with the theme “creating goals” — will be held Saturday, May 24 from 2 to 6 p.m. at Dogwood Pavilion in Coquitlam and Wednesday, May 28 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Kyle Centre in Port Moody. Further open houses are slated for September and December. For more information, visit



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