Kitsilano Neighbourhood House nears completion

Historic buildings retained as new services to be offered

With its two-year reconstruction nearly complete, the heart of Kitsilano is ready to beat again.

The Kitsilano Neighourhood House at the corner of West Seventh and Vine is mere months away from completion and will feature an expanded multipurpose community space with childcare facilities, a renovated theatre, a community kitchen, open office space and low-cost seniors housing.

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The new facility will see the Kits House, previously housed in the former St. George Greek Orthodox Church, expanded to include the 1911 George Hay House, with an all new modern building connecting the two.

The project is being built to LEED Gold environmental certifications, and while the historic exteriors of the two heritage buildings will remain intact, the inside of the facility will be completely new and modern.

“Once you’re on the inside, you wouldn’t know there are three different buildings,” says executive director Catherine Leach. “It all flows together so perfectly.”

Retaining the two historic buildings was a message Leach and the Kits House staff and volunteers heard loud and clear when they started the community consultation and planning process for the project close to seven years ago.

“It would have been cheaper to start from scratch, but that’s not what the community wanted,” says Leach.

Also high on the community’s priority list was affordable, subsidized seniors housing, as well as childcare. Leach says she hopes having children and seniors using the facility together will open the opportunity for mentorship programs for the young ones, and encourage active lifestyles for residents.

Neighbour Larry Hnetka has lived across the alley from Kits House for the past 25 years and says he’s excited to see the refurbished and expanded community facility finally take shape.

“It’s going to revitalize the whole neighbourhood.”

Kits House has had a long history as the heart of the Kitsilano community, and has been at its present location since the early 1970s.

Environmental activist group Greenpeace held one of its first meetings at the hall, and it has long played host to live folk music and community plays and productions.

However, the facility’s relevance waned in the past decade, which is why a revitalization was needed, says Leach.

The $19.5 million tab for the project was funded in part by the provincial government ($9.6 million), the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of B.C. ($6.4 million), and the City of  Vancouver ($1.6 million) and others ($220,000).

That leaves $1.7 million Kits House still need to raise. Of that, Kits Neighbourhood House has already raised more than $330,000, but that still leaves a considerable funding gap.

“We have some fundraisers coming up... there are naming opportunities available, and we are accepting donations online,” says volunteer programmer and fund developer Julie Rieter. “Every little bit helps.”

The new and improved Kits House is expected to open in the late summer/early fall, with a grand opening celebration tentatively planned for October.

To earn more about the project, visit KitsHouse.org.

editor@wevancouver.com

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