Beverley Kort is a registered psychologist by day and a cartoonist in her off hours. She recently took a course in comics journalism at the School for Visual Arts in New York and one of the assignments was to do a local story. Bigsby the Bakehouse is her local bakery in Vancouver and surviving the pandemic is a current topic. She decided to merge these two interests to create this article.
An illustration of the proposed King David High School expansion, as designed by Acton Ostry Architects Inc.
King David High School is slated for a whole new home in the redeveloped Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver campus. However, that move could be eight, 10 or even a dozen years away. In the meantime, the continually growing student body needs more space – and that is why a new component is now being added, with intended completion this coming September.
Russ Klein, King David’s head of school, said the existing building, which opened in 2005, is at near-total capacity.
“Our room utilization rate is 98% for our regular classrooms,” he said. “There is zero wiggle room. Typically, a school’s utilization rate would be around 80%.”
This means that the school cannot increase course offerings, such as new Judaic studies programs or electives. The trend in secondary education is to offer a diversity of options to encourage students to explore their interests and passions. In addition, education is increasingly moving away from large group class lessons toward collaborations between pairs or small groups of students. That demands a greater number of more flexible spaces.
The new structure is a “modular unit addition,” Klein said, rejecting the term “portables.” The difference, he said, is that portables were inflexible, prefabricated buildings, while the new modular options can be adapted to whatever configuration an institution requires.
In King David’s case, it is expected to feature four classrooms, a small teachers’ work room, student changing rooms and a physical education office. In all, it will add about 3,500 square feet of space to the 40,000-square-foot school. The new building will be located at the east end of the property, adjacent the new Oakridge redevelopment, where a grassy hill now exists. Although this will result in a loss of that outdoor area, Klein said the hill is a nice place for kids to hang out in September and for a couple of months in the spring, but, for most of the year, it is not really usable space.
In addition to the changing expectations driven by educational trends, the school has been on a steady trajectory of growth. Enrolment is now at 240, up from 139 students 11 years ago.
The modular nature of the new facility slashes the time from conception to completion. It will take two or three months to prepare the site and another five or six months to construct the building. Acton Ostry, an architecture firm that has done many developments in the Jewish community, including KDHS, is leading the project.
While Klein acknowledges that the new building is a “stopgap” intended to allow the school to function adequately as they await the development of its new home in the JCC complex across the street, he adds that this is no chump-change endeavour.
“It’s an almost $3 million project,” he said. The funding is coming from the Diamond Foundation.
The Diamond Foundation – a family foundation directed by Leslie and Gordon Diamond and daughters Jill Diamond and Lori Glotman – purchased the land where the school is located and spearheaded construction of the building. The school pays rent to the foundation and then the foundation donates that money back to the school each year.
“I always think everybody should just recognize how generous the Diamonds are in everything they’re doing,” said Klein.
Examples of some of the new initiatives the space might accommodate are an expanded robotics program, as well as applied design and coding courses. Rabbi Stephen Berger, King David’s head of Judaic studies, would like to see more text-based education, where students can engage in chavruta-style learning, traditional, intense small group talmudic study, said Klein.
Comparative religions and other courses geared toward social action initiatives that inspire many students are other things Klein can envision growing thanks to the new space.
All of this is taking place as the JCC, in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and their constituent partners, proceed full-steam-ahead on the biggest capital project ever undertaken by British Columbia’s Jewish community. The two-phase redevelopment will see a 200,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, multigenerational community centre constructed where the existing JCC parking lot is located. This will include expanded childcare, seniors’ services, arts and cultural spaces and amenities for all Vancouver residents, as well as becoming the home for more than 15 not-for-profit organizations, including a theatre and more space for the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.
Once that is completed, a second phase will commence on the site of the existing JCC building. This will include mixed-use rental housing, with units expected to be offered at or below market value and open to everyone. Beneath these residential floors, at street level, will be a “podium,” where the high school will be located.
Plans foresee a 60,000-square-foot school, which is a 25 to 30% increase over the existing structure – but Klein stresses those numbers don’t tell the entire story.
“The JCC is going to be built with two gymnasiums,” he said. “One of them will be dedicated to King David’s use, so we can use it whenever we want to, and then the JCC will be able to use it when we are not using it.” This is a reversal, of sorts, from the existing situation, where the high school can use the JCC’s gym when it is not otherwise occupied.
“That probably is as exciting to us as the extra learning spaces,” said Klein. “The other lovely thing for us is there going to be a small field, which is [currently] a real problem for King David.”
The field will be constructed behind the building, where the property juts out with an asymmetrical wedge at its southwest corner. The field will not be legal size, and so will not be suitable for competitive games, but will allow the school to hold practices at any time, unlike at present, where they have to rent fields, which are expensive and much in demand.
The redevelopment project has received $25 million commitments from each of the federal and British Columbia governments but a massive fundraising campaign is required to complete the project. When the school will be able to move into its new digs depends on a large number of variables.
“I’d say, best case scenario in my mind – and everyone will give you a different case – I think the best case is eight years,” said Klein. “Probably 10 to 12 is more realistic.”
The leading federal political parties have pledged their support to the redevelopment of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver. Kailin Che, the Conservative Candidate for Vancouver Granville, issued a release Sept. 1, saying that a Conservative government would commit to the redevelopment of the facility. The Conservative campaign did not commit to a dollar amount.
The federal Liberals also made a commitment. Taleeb Noormohamad, the Liberal candidate in Vancouver Granville, announced the next day that a reelected Liberal government would contribute $25 million to the project – the same contribution that the province has committed to and the amount JCC officials requested.
The entire project is budgeted at $427 million, including $155 for a new community centre, childcare spaces and seniors care and $272 million to construct 500 to 600 units of mixed-use rental housing. The new centre is estimated for completion in late 2024 and the housing component is anticipated in 2027-28.
Emily Pritchard has been appointed as director of the upcoming capital campaign for the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver redevelopment project. She brings close to a decade of experience to the role and has led successful capital fundraising campaigns throughout her career.
“We are delighted to welcome Emily on board,” said Alvin Wasserman, president of the JCC. “Her appointment is an indication of the growing strength and immense potential of this enormous undertaking.”
The redevelopment will be the single biggest project in the history of the local Jewish community and will bring diverse groups of people from across the region together around a central community hub.
“I am thrilled to be working on this project. Not only is this one of the most ambitious capital campaigns in the city, it is an excellent example of how a capital project can pull a community together,” said Pritchard. In previous roles, Pritchard has led successful campaigns for Christ Church Cathedral and Covenant House Vancouver.
Over the past few years, the JCC, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and King David High School have engaged in a strategic process with stakeholders regarding the proposed redevelopment of the JCC site. As part of that process, the organizations agreed to collaborate on fundraising.
“The creation of the capital campaign director role is part of our commitment to building an experienced team of professionals,” explained Alex Cristall, Jewish Federation’s board chair. “The proposed redevelopment of the JCC site is a complex, long-term project that will take commitments from across the community, government and beyond to realize. Ensuring we have Emily in place at this early stage will enable us to be fully prepared when the time comes to launch the capital campaign.”
KDHS co-president Neville Israel said Pritchard is “a critical part of our cross-organizational team.”
“As the redevelopment starts to gather steam,” added school co-president Jackie Cristall Morris, “I am confident that she will help bring to life the exciting opportunities ahead of us.”
The current 60-year-old JCC facility serves 40,000 people a year, comprising more than 300,000 visits annually. In April 2021, the B.C. government announced $25 million to support the first phase of the redevelopment. This followed Vancouver City Council’s unanimous approval of the rezoning and redevelopment plan for the site. Previously, the provincial government and private donors provided support for the planning stages of the project, which is expected to be completed in two phases.
The first phase will result in a renewed 200,000-square-foot multigenerational community centre on what is currently the JCC parking lot. It will include expanded childcare, seniors’ services, arts and cultural spaces, and amenities for all Vancouver residents. More than 15 not-for-profit organizations are expected to call the centre home, and plans include expanded space for the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, a new theatre, and more.
Once that is completed, the redevelopment’s second phase will begin on what is currently the site of the existing JCC building. Central to this is a mixed-use rental housing project, with units expected to be offered at or below market value and be open to everyone. In this phase, with support from private donors and supporters of the school, KDHS will move to a new facility that will give the school ample space to provide academic, athletic and extra-curricular programming.
– Courtesy Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver
One of the reasons the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver is being redeveloped is that its amenities, like the gymnasium and swimming pool, are aging. (photo from miss604.com)
The government of British Columbia has announced $25 million to support the redevelopment of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.
At a virtual event April 28, three cabinet ministers and Alvin Wasserman, president of the board of the JCC, publicly shared the major contribution to the $155 million project.
The first phase of the redevelopment, which is what the grant supports, will contribute to the construction of the new, 200,000-square-foot community centre. This will be built on the current JCC parking lot. The new facility will allow the JCC to expand childcare, seniors services, arts and cultural spaces and amenities for all. The centre, when opened, will also be home to about 15 not-for-profit organizations, with expanded space for the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, a new theatre, and other facilities. That component is anticipated to be completed in late 2024.
A second phase of the project, which is the largest capital project in the history of British Columbia’s Jewish community, will see the existing JCC replaced with mixed-use rental housing, including units at or below market value. In this phase, King David High School, which is currently located to the east of the JCC, across Willow Street, is expected to move to new, larger premises in the second phase to accommodate growing student enrolment. This phase, expected to be completed in 2027 or 2028, will cost about $272 million.
The redevelopment initiative includes the transfer of the property from the JCC into a community trust, with rent and other revenues being reinvested into the Jewish community in perpetuity.
Melanie Mark, B.C. minister of tourism, art, culture and sport, made the funding official in an enthusiastic announcement.
“The Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver is an integral part of our social and cultural fabric, it’s a vibrant, intergenerational community centre,” she said. “But it was built more than 60 years ago and the facility is in desperate need of replacement. Its amenities, like the swimming pool and gymnasium, are aging. Meanwhile, the community of Oakridge has exploded around it.”
Mark added: “We hope this grant will assist the centre to secure other sources of funding for this project. The redevelopment of the centre is a massive undertaking, leaving a legacy for generations to come, which is why I’m encouraging other levels of government to join us in funding this important project. Specifically, I hope the federal government will step up and match our funding commitment. I hope they see the value in meeting the needs of this growing, diverse community.”
The new JCC’s capacity for increased childcare and the residential components of the second phase dovetail, Mark said, with the government’s commitments to affordable housing and childcare.
David Eby, the province’s minister responsible for housing, emceed the event. The JCC’s aim of 500 units of affordable housing is an example of how the province is “going to get to our very ambitious target of 114,000 units of affordable housing across the province,” Eby said.
Also on hand was George Heyman, minister of environment and climate change strategy, who recalled his teenage years hanging out at the centre. He echoed Mark’s call for the federal government to join the province in supporting the project.
“The Jewish Community Centre is a centre not just for Oakridge and the Cambie Corridor but for all of Metro Vancouver, and has been for years,” said Heyman. “Visitors come from all around the region and from a wide variety of ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds.”
On behalf of the JCC, Wasserman thanked the provincial officials, all three of whom represent Vancouver ridings in the legislature.
“The centre is in desperate need of replacement,” said Wasserman. “Community needs have hugely outgrown it and, fortunately, we are blessed with options. The centre is in the heart of Vancouver, on land worth more than $325 million. Our community pioneers knew this land would be important for our future needs and that future is arriving…. Thanks to the funding from the province of B.C., we are able to move forward with the plan that will bring benefits to many for many generations to come.”
Left to right: The Hon. Selina Robinson, B.C. minister of municipal affairs and housing; Michelle Pollock, past president of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver; and Eldad Goldfarb, JCCGV executive director. (photo from JCCGV)
Selina Robinson, British Columbia’s minister of municipal affairs and housing, visited the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver last month to make an announcement regarding the centre’s planned redevelopment.
On June 13, Robinson announced a provincial contribution to support the planning phase of the redevelopment, which intends to replace the existing JCC with a new facility where the existing parking lot is located, as well as a multi-use tower to be located on the site of the existing JCC, most of which will be housing. (For details of the plan, see jewishindependent.ca/jcc-site-to-be-redeveloped.)
“The B.C. government is committed to increasing the affordability and availability of housing in B.C. and we welcome opportunities, like the community centre-led project, that can support these goals,” the ministry of municipal affairs and housing said in a statement to the Independent. “A total of $200,000 has been provided to the Jewish Community Centre to support further development of the housing component of their plan. This plan has the potential to serve people at all ages and stages of life with housing, a new community gathering place, and services for seniors, children and their parents.”
Eldad Goldfarb, executive director of the JCCGV, said the province’s support for this component of the process is an important recognition of the value of the project for the community.
“It’s a very helpful contribution toward the planning process. It’s not money that will be used toward bricks and mortar because, at this point, we’re doing the planning, the rezoning, the budgeting and all these parts that are comprised of planning,” he said. “It’s an initial infusion of support, an investment by the province, to help us move the planning along towards getting this project started and completed.”
The redevelopment dovetails with a number of the provincial government’s priorities, including affordable rental housing, the creation of new childcare spaces, supports for seniors and cultural spaces.
Goldfarb said the community centre is keeping federal, provincial and civic officials closely informed about the project’s progress.
The City of Vancouver is expected to convene a public hearing on the proposed redevelopment this fall.
“We’re excited to see the B.C. government provide planning funds for the JCC redevelopment,” said Karen James, board chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, in a statement to the Independent. “This will be a transformational project for our community and the Oakridge area.”
*** This article has been edited to reflect that the redevelopment will no longer include a new home for the Louis Brier Home and Hospital. ***