Proposed Ray-Cam community centre renewal gets council approval

They were celebrating at Ray-Cam Co-operative Community Centre Wednesday morning as the push to upgrade the centre got a boost from city council, but now the real work begins.

Council adopted Green Coun. Adriane Carr’s motion to have staff review the proposed renewal so that it can be considered as part of the city’s 2019-2022 capital plan. That approval means the project will be included on the ballot this October.

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“There was a very big cheer in the lobby,” said coordinator Kate Hodgson. “That’s very exciting.”

"Today's resolution signals that the city is serious about this project — it's a real opportunity to meet some urgent housing objectives and invest in our community," said Strathcona resident and Ray-Cam board member Guy Wakeman. "We're very excited to move this forward and hipefully take advantage of some of the provincial funding opportunities we know are coming down the pipe."

Ray-Cam has been serving Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood for more than 40 years. Originally constructed in 1976, the community centre on the eastern edge of the Downtown Eastside has expanded over the years but it’s now bursting at the seams and starting to show its age.

Ray-Cam currently provides much-needed services for more than 6,000 members. Diapers, snacks and supplies are stacked against the walls in meeting rooms. The gym and weight-rooms leak, and an inadequate, and chronically broken furnace, means parts of the centre are freezing in the winter. There are only two public washrooms.

ray-cam renewal
Ray-Cam staff meeting in one of two rooms used for after-school care programs. Many spaces at the centre have various uses as staff have to get creative to accommodate all the various needs. Photo Dan Toulgoet

The centre exists under a unique partnership — the land is owned by the province and has been granted in perpetuity for the use and enjoyment of local residents. The centre is jointly operated by the Ray-Cam cooperative, the city and the park board.

"Ray-Cam is a caring and safe place that welcomes everyone," said park board chair Stuart Mackinnon, who is the centre's official commissioner liaision. "It is the community's rec room. I am very happy that city council feels that it is time for a renewal."

The movement to see a renewed Ray-Cam started in earnest in 2016. Hodgson said the vision includes a new community centre with more childcare spaces and more room for the increasing number of programs offered at the centre. Also at the top of the list is a residential component.

Residents involved in the community-visioned redevelopment have already secured in-principle support from B.C. Housing for the construction and financing of a residential component, pending a commitment of municipal funding for a new community centre.

Hodgson said a steering committee, which includes representatives from Ray-Cam, BC Housing, the city and the park board, will meet first thing Monday morning to get to work to make sure the proposal is ready for inclusion on the ballot.

“It’s really exciting and really needed,” she said. “We’re so ready for it.”

@JessicaEKerr

jkerr@vancourier.com

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