Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Aaron Jasper says the board has no intention of paving over the site of the former Riley Park Community Centre.
But Jasper confirmed the property where the centre was recently demolished will not be made into a pure green space and that extra parking spaces will be added.
Jasper, vice-chair of the park board, said that with the completion of the neighbouring Hillcrest Centre complex, which includes a fitness centre, community centre, library, ice and curling rink and aquatic centre, the park board is mandated by the city to supply 480 permanent and 440 temporary parking spots.
“It’s what the city required, but we had to wait until all of the facilities were up and running to determine if that was the case,” said Jasper. “Our park staff want to green that space, but there will be some parking in that area. We just need to talk to the city’s engineering department to find out how much, but we want it to be the fewest spots possible.”
Jasper was addressing concerns of members of the Riley Park South Cambie Community Visions Committee and the Riley Park/Hillcrest Community Centre Association that the majority of the property will end up paved rather than dedicated to green space and recreation as promised by the park board.
Last year, both groups unsuccessfully lobbied the park board to save the community centre from being torn down.
Parking has long been present at the site, but Jasper said the number of stalls will be increased. According to a staff report, the current lease with the Vancouver Canadians baseball franchise requires 50 permanent and 50 temporary stalls at Riley Park on game days. The changes to the park are included in the master plan approved in 2000 for both Riley and Hillcrest parks.
Allan Boium, chair of the Riley Park South Cambie Community Visions Committee, questions the need to pave any part of Riley Park when the community was told it would be reclaimed as green space. “They’ve left the blacktop from the old parking spaces there and now they want to create 50 more spots,” said Boium.
He suggested the park board create more permanent parking where a temporary lot is used during the winter farmers markets held at Nat Bailey Stadium, which has an entrance off Midlothian Avenue on the east side of Hillcrest Park. Another option he suggested could be the temporary parking area off West 29th Avenue.
“Why they need more is beyond us,” said Boium. “[Mayor Gregor Robertson] talks about a green city, but the limited bus service to the area doesn’t make sense.”
Jesse Johl, president of the Hillcrest Community Centre Association, said extra parking stalls weren’t part of the initial long-term plan for Riley Park.
“But then they slipped in 50 and that grew to 200,” said Johl. “When they built the new [Hillcrest complex] someone should have thought of that. They had 2.7 million people through the door the first year, but there’s not enough parking.”
An open house was held regarding the Hillcrest and Riley Parks master plan last year and a second is planned for the spring, likely in April. Jasper said parks staff will gather input on how the community wants the Riley Park space to be used.