We are all voting for Central Park


I was walking in my neighbourhood this evening and saw signs up that said, “We’re voting Central Park” and fears of loss of green space. There is nothing to fear! At a July 19th Committee of the Whole meeting I made a motion that Council passed unanimously directing staff to come up with a plan for the new Crystal Pool that will result in no net loss of green space. Staff are now working on this and will report back to Council and the public in September.

Just like we did recently with Topaz Park, to much community acclaim, we will do a detailed, and community-centred consultation on the future of Central Park beginning in early 2019. We understand the strong connection that residents have with the existing park amenities. Along with building Victoria’s new aquatic and wellness centre, we will also be renewing the park; this has been the plan all along. During construction we will work to preserve as many of the park features as we can.

The Crystal Pool and Fitness Center is an important piece of Victoria’s history. It is a community hub and one of Victoria’s oldest and most frequently used recreation facilities. Unfortunately it is now reaching the end of its life and requires significant investment to meet current building, seismic and accessibility standards. Council asked staff to do a feasibility study in 2016, reviewing three options: to upgrade, refurbish or replace the ageing facility. After extensive analysis of the existing service gaps and long-term needs of the community, in February 2017 Council unanimously approved the replacement of the existing building with a new, barrier-free recreation centre.

December 2016 Crystal Pool Feasibility Staff Report
February 2017 Crystal Pool Feasibility Study Staff Report Follow Up

Today, one in five residents can’t access the Crystal Pool due to the split-level design which limits access for persons with disabilities including mobility impairments. The new facility will welcome all ages and abilities through a design that removes barriers to participation. This universally-accessible recreation centre will feature a 50m pool, universal and inclusive change rooms, an expanded fitness area, better spaces for events and programs, a welcoming community space, and public washrooms for park users.

The new facility is anticipated to see an increase in annual visits by 35%. Over the past year and a half, we’ve been focused on engaging citizens, meeting stakeholder groups and working with technical experts and other partners to first design and then to refine the design of the facility. In June, we presented schematic designs for the facility to the community at public Open House sessions and the City received feedback from the community through an online survey; 80% of people who participated expressed support for the facility design.

Screenshot 2018-07-31 21.35.06

The investment required for the new facility is significant and the City has committed $10 million from its Building and Infrastructure Fund towards the $69.4 million budget and we have the ability to fund up to 33% of the project with city resources should this be necessary. We are also seeking funding from external sources including other levels of government. In February, the Union of B.C. Municipalities announced the award of $6 million from the Federal Gas Tax Fund, and applications will be submitted for two other large grant programs.

To stay in touch as the Crystal Pool and Central Park projects unfold, please look for  regular updates here.





10 responses to “We are all voting for Central Park”

  1. barrettrblackwood Avatar

    Thank-you Mayor Helps for all of your kind and responsible concideration ?

  2. Shirley H Avatar
    Shirley H

    All good things need planning.

  3. sean kahil Avatar
    sean kahil

    Dear Mayor Helps, clearly you believe our concerns are unfounded. We would be most happy to meet with you to discuss the matter.
    To be clear, the full text reads: “No! To building on greenspace in our park. Yes! To full consultation, full plan, BEFORE we build!”
    The current plan does call for building on greenspace. The space occupied by the bulk of the park amenities. The amendment only calls for an investigation, and only additional loss of greenspace due to parking. That’s good but it’s not a commitment, nor does it address the loss of greenspace due to the increased footprint of the building.
    The rest of the text is significant. Clearly, despite your view that the community has been consulted the residents of the community feel differently, and have chosen to express this view by posting the signs. Again, we would be happy to discuss the matter with you.
    The remainder of the text deals with the plan for the park. The plan to build over the park will precede the plan to recover the park. Effectively, the City is saying that they are going to destroy a vital part of our community and then make a plan and a budget to fix it at a later date. With respect, we do not feel this is adequate.

    In conclusion, the signs and the sentiment expressed by them, are not in any way opposed to the renewal of the pool. What we seek is exactly what the signs say. The preservation of our greenspace and the opportunity to have our concerns heard.

    Respectfully yours,
    Victoria Friends of Central Park

    1. Lisa Helps Avatar
      Lisa Helps

      I would be very happy to meet you. Please email mayor@victoria.ca and we’ll make it happen.

  4. Allison Avatar

    It is a huge step forward that Council has directed staff to find alternate parking solutions for the new Crystal Pool facility and to ensure residents there will be no net loss of greenspace. North Park, Downtown and Harris Green residents need more parks not more parking lots.

    Similarly, it is great that a plan for disruption during construction and a park master plan and engagement process akin to Topaz Park is also committed to and will catch up to the building design. Hopefully it is Council’s intent that we will have a comprehensive plan for the park developed in collaboration with its users and the neighbourhood before final signoff is given for the building design. The budget and schedule for the park and building need to be advanced and approved at the same time.

    Finally, your motion to include housing atop a community centre/welcome centre with childcare and underground parking in Central Park in lieu of the proposed surface parking lot, may not have received the love it needed from Council and the community to move forward, but it did at last invite an authentic two-way conversation with the community about Central Park and the Crystal Pool, and from that emerged how absurd a plan for a 110-140 space parking lot in Central Park was. So for this reason alone, your motion and the work of those of us in the community who worked with you on it, the effort was worthwhile.

    But, let’s not toss out the rationale for these other amenities contained within your motion.

    1. Housing and childcare are critical needs for the community and money from senior levels of government exist to provide this social infrastructure at no cost to local taxpayers. But they need land and Council’s proposal to pursue partnerships and funding using the Royal Athletic Park parking lot should advance without delay.

    2. The new Crystal Pool design has significant omissions and missed opportunities, most notably
    o Community centre – all neighbourhoods in Victoria other than North Park, Harris Green and downtown have a community centre provided by/funded by the City of Victoria. These underserved neighbourhoods do not enjoy the same level of service and lack a community hub and key amenities and services like a community kitchen, meeting space and childcare which are the norm in other community centres.
    o Welcome centre – more than a quarter of Victoria’s residents are new Canadians (self0identifying as immigrants in 2016 census). North Park, Hillside Quadra, and downtown have higher proportionate representation of urban indigenous, new Canadians and communities of colour than the rest of the city and region. Key non-profit service providers to these traditionally underserved groups are located mere blocks from the Crystal Pool and Royal Athletic Park (Intercultural Association, Aboriginal friendship centre/IS-PARC, Victoria Immigrant Resource Centre, etc.) Many of these orgs have unstable funding and tenureship unnecessarily taking energy away from their program delivery objectives. Victoria and the CRD are overdue for a proper welcome centre with multilingual, culturally appropriate support services to overcome structural barriers and equity and access issues for housing, employment, childcare, and recreation.
    o Gymnasium – the current Crystal pool design is beautiful and a best-in-class aquatic facility, but it is Victoria’s only recreation centre and it is too aquatics-dominant. There is latent demand and shortages in the core (Victoria, Oak Bay, Saanich, Esquimalt) for gymnasium and art centre spaces. The Crystal Pool needs more diverse recreation for non-swimmers, a $70M recreation facility must include a full-sized gymnasium, the immediate neighbourhood is without access to a permanent and public gymnasium. The sale of the YMCA from downtown reinforces the need for a municipally provided gymnasium. The basketball court in Central Park is one of the most popular recreation amenities in the city. These players, among others, should be provided options for rainy and dark days and nights.
    o Non-sport Recreation – an all ages, all abilities facility needs to offer more non-sport recreation for those who choose to recreate without breaking a sweat or getting wet. Art classes such as pottery and painting, currently on offer at Cedar Hill, but always sold out instantly, require a permanent space and specialized equipment. Moreover, the Create Victoria art strategy recently approved by Council recognizes that access to stable and appropriate physical space for art is one of the greatest barriers for artists, to-be artists, and art recreation. VISA may have found a new home through a partnership with private development, but their expulsion by the school district demonstrates the need to value and support these schools and artists through the provision of affordable and certain long-term space.

    Thanks for listening and being open, as you always are. No net loss of park is a win, getting rid of a vitality-zapping parking lot is a coup, but there are other opportunities that should not be missed with the Crystal Pool project (gymnasium and art centre), and there is still an opportunity to advance community building and address current equity issues in the neighbourhoods of North Park, Harris Green and downtown. These neighbourhoods are currently underserved without a community centre, inclusive of childcare, community kitchen and other community connection opportunities enjoyed by others. Moreover, it is time for Victoria to provide a proper home for welcome centre services. Mayor and council acknowledge the racial justice e always issues and structural barriers and biases inherent in our systems and institutions which unjustly burden and exclude a significant and growing number of people in the capital region. Now is the time with 70% senior govt funding available for community, culture and recreation infrastructure, 100% childcare funding available and more than 100% housing funding available when land is provided for housing. And, North Park is the place for this housing, childcare and community centre/welcome centre to service the neighbourhoods of downtown, Harris Green and North Park, and the region’s new Canadians and urban indigenous.

    Our group’s full analysis of community needs and opportunities is presented in our letter to Council supporting the Mayor’s former motion (along with other important letters of support from BC Housing, Intercultural Association, Greater Victoria Housing Society, and others in the community) at

    Pertinent census data for the neighbourhoods of North Park, Harris Green and downtown are also included as an appendix to the mayor’s former motion at

  5. Carew Martin Avatar
    Carew Martin

    “Today, one in five residents can’t access the Crystal Pool due to the split-level design which limits access for persons with disabilities including mobility impairments. The new facility will welcome all ages and abilities through a design that removes barriers to participation.”

    This is untrue, the facility has had mobility escalators all throughout the facility for years

    1. Lisa Helps Avatar
      Lisa Helps

      It actually is true; this is part of the analysis we did in determining whether to retrofit or rebuild the pool. The idea is to make the new facility as easy for people with mobility issues as for those without so that if you’re in a wheel chair, for example, you have the same ease and accessibility access as everyone else. The Rick Hansen Foundation is embedded on the project team. And we were also just awarded $1 million from the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities to make accessibility additions to the new facility that will make it possible for children with a range of abilities easily access the pool.

  6. Anne Moon Avatar
    Anne Moon

    Today I watched a disabled lady painfully make her way backwards into Crystal Pool–out of a wheelchair and down the steps. It is unconscionable in this age of awareness that anyone should not be able to make a more graceful entrance, without holding up a class of swimmers about to leave. I had the same problem when recovering from surgery–you want to partake but it is so darn hard. I commented wryly that it would be easier if we just got tipped into the deep end from our wheelchairs.
    We have waited far too long for a pool with ramp access. We also need a building with proper elevators, easy to use and friendly to strollers etc. The “mobility escalators” mentioned above are a joke.
    Yes, I approve of moving the parking to Green St. but have you considered the impact on the police staff who park there now, taking up most of the spaces? (I trust this is treated as a taxable benefit?)
    I also second the appeal to make make this more of a community centre–in Victoria’s lowest-income census tract we need every break we can get–and that includes a nice safe place to gather. And save the basketball court–it’s a huge asset.

  7. Bonnie Segger Avatar
    Bonnie Segger

    It’s true that the new building plans are lovely, of course, but I think what is bothering me so much about this whole idea is the waste. The current building is obviously structurally very sound. There was substantial work, planning, design, material and labour that went in to the project back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. To just demolish it and relegate the entire structure to landfill makes no sense to me, especially as it is a brick and mortar building that should easily have another 50 years of life, if not more,

    I notice that Victoria won the the MYSA award for being Canada’s #1 Green City last year. The methodology they used was as follows: “The data and statistics were collected from the latest research published by Statistics Canada and various municipal governments. The ranking for this list considers air quality, water conservation, eco-friendly transportation, designated green spaces in urban areas, type of energy consumed in homes, and efforts to promote sustainability.” Promoting sustainability means to me that we are environmentally friendly and don’t deplete natural resources. It seems wasteful to tear down a perfectly sound building.

    Further, how does a society build a heritage if it doesn’t hang on to the best of its past? There will always be new ideas, modern designs and current fads, but that shouldn’t make past projects worthless. When there are so many pressing issues that Victoria is facing, it would seem to me that the funds could be put to much better use.

    As Allison discusses above, perhaps what would be more useful than tearing down a perfectly good swimming facility is to build a non-aquatic Community Centre that offers a wider diversity of activities to the residents of Victoria – not on green space of course, but on a different site.

    1. Carew Martin Avatar
      Carew Martin

      Bonnie, the city went through every option including repairing and maintaining the existing facility but it’s more prudent to simply replace it and start from scratch (the information about this is not hard to find) which, as an avid user of the facility I was kind of disappointed about because I really like the existing facility, particularly the dome skylights. My biggest beef is with the city’s lack of communication since I offered a dozen suggestions for the new facility and I have zero evidence anyone even read my suggestions let alone that any of them will be implemented although i’m not surprised since this isn’t the first message i’ve made to the facility that’s gone ignored.


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