With the purchase of the Blanshard School property by the Capital Regional Hospital District, the door is now open for restoring community use of the building and grounds by Hillside-Quadra residents.
Since the school board sold a 99-year leasehold interest in the school and grounds to private owners over a decade ago, the future appeared to be slated for private real-estate development.
Now, I believe there is a real opportunity for a partnership between neighbourhood residents, the Quadra Village Community Centre, the City of Victoria and the Hospital District to provide community benefits in the public building and the surrounding public lands.
A portion of the building will likely continue to be operated as a career college for a 5-year term. And a portion may be used for construction project management for the 320-unit hospital for dementia care on the adjacent land to the north.
But several parts of the property at 950 Kings Road, across the street from the existing Community Centre and the Wark Street Park, are ripe for community use. These include the large gymnasium, which includes a stage and kitchen facilities. There are also opportunities for food production, sports and potentially a skateboarding facility for youth on the surrounding grounds of 950 Kings Road.
Working with neighbourhood residents and leaders, I am pushing hard for an agreement between the City of Victoria and the Hospital District to allow the gym to be re-opened as a public facility, with programming through the Community Centre if it would like to serve in that role. I also believe a substantial portion of the grounds at 950 Kings Road could be leased to the City and operated by the Community Centre for community gardens and recreation grounds.
Details for community use would be worked out in consultation with residents and the Community Centre, as well as a vision for the longer-term use of the land. I think we now have a real chance for an improved and innovative public realm in the heart of our neighbourhood, and a substantially augmented community facility with the restoration of the gym to public ownership, operation and control.
In the months ahead, I look forward to discussions in our neighbourhood over how we can make the most for the community out of the facilities at 950 Kings Road, and what kind of vision people have for this land in the longer term. My opinion is that any long-term vision should include a strong community use and greenspace component.
I would encourage you to help make this vision a reality and share your views with City Council members by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, requesting that the City work with the Quadra Village Community Centre and the Hospital District to maximize the community benefit made possible by the restoration of Blanshard School to public ownership.