The Woodlands site in New Westminster B.C. has been a major part of the community for over a century. Once a home to a variety of mental health care facilities, the site is no longer required in its entirety for its former program uses. Starting in November of 2001, BCBC undertook an extensive public process to determine the best future uses for the valuable site.
The Public Process
The process brought together a team of technical experts and interested members of the community to discuss and evaluate a number of options on their technical and fiscal merit, and their appeal to the community. Through a series of two open houses and seven workshops, the participants arrived at a detailed plan that captured the desires of the community and addressed New Westminster's emerging housing and health care needs.
The workshop series looked at the specific issues that were important to the community and would figure prominently in any decisions made about future uses of the Woodlands site. BCBC also conducted a series of site tours and hosted an information centre to ensure that the community could familiarize themselves with the site and have any questions answered.
The public process has helped to produce a plan for a fully modern, vibrant community that honours the history of the site and reflects New Westminster's character. Careful placement of roads and buildings will also allow for many of the mature specimen trees at Woodlands to be retained. The site's health care legacy will also live on through the Fraser Health Authority's commitment to a 4.5-acre site, for a 180 beds/units facility and a community outreach (HOPE Centre) for the frail elderly, and potentially another 100 units of assisted living within the community.
The public process was extensive, and the dedication and commitment displayed by all participants has contributed to a plan of real insight and substance. While no single participant can ever expect to have everything they ask for realized, healthy debate, compromise and informed trade-offs have made the most of this unique and challenging site. The Vision - to create a vibrant, diverse, sustainable and livable community for all ages at a human scale, integrated into New Westminster's urban fabric - has been created.
Among the major changes that will be coming to the Woodlands site, complementing the health facilities, is the addition of 1,270 new units of market housing in high, medium and low-rise units, placed to protect views within and outside the community. Five heritage buildings will be protected, including the Nurses Lodge as a potential Art's Centre, and the Recreation building as a possible school/community facility. Green spaces will also be protected with 24.5 acres of green space set aside for parks and open spaces. Safety and access around the site will be improved with the addition of a pedestrian bridge over McBride Avenue and ravine access paths. Traffic flow around the site will be improved with enhancements to intersections at key points.
The plan was unanimously passed through its fourth and final reading by New Westminster City Council on November 4, 2002. Colliers International was then retained to market the property to suitable developers and builders and the Onni Group was the successful bidder. Construction is now underway by Onni. BCBC are supervising the conversion of the former Woodlands Cemetery into a Memorial Garden commemorating the patients who died whilst in the institution."
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