British Columbia

No reopen dates yet for City of Vancouver services in next phase of COVID-19 recovery

The City of Vancouver is taking a go-slow approach to reopening some services and facilities that were closed as a result of COVID-19.

Community centres, libraries and playgrounds have been closed across city for weeks

Libraries, non-essential community centres, playgrounds and outdoor recreation facilities like tennis courts have been shut down for more than six weeks in Vancouver. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

The City of Vancouver is taking a go-slow approach to reopening some services and facilities that were closed as a result of COVID-19.

"We're going to have to gauge this," said Mayor Kennedy Stewart.

"The province has said things are going to open in phases. We'll probably have phases in the city as well. Our goal is to get things open as quickly as we can, while having safety as the top priority."

Libraries, non-essential community centres, playgrounds and outdoor recreation facilities like tennis courts have been shut down for more than six weeks in Vancouver and similar closures have taken place across B.C. communities.

But because there was no lockdown order in the province, all municipalities proactively closed their services, meaning places like Vancouver will have to set their own timelines for reopening, following the province's announcement of its reopening strategy. 

Several Metro Vancouver cities, including Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam, have already announced the reopening of non-playground outdoor facilities. 

But Stewart said it could take a little longer for Vancouver to reopen all of its services, given its size and popularity as a hub city. 

"I know people are missing their city services, but we have to be cautious," he said.

"It's going to be an ongoing process … where we're checking with staff and the public and looking at the economics of things before opening things up." 

The patio at Vancouver's Coo Coo Coffee draws about 80 per cent of its business, but it's been sitting empty after B.C. ordered restaurants and coffee shops to move to takeout or delivery models only. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Patios, pools and productions

Stewart said the city would be conducting a poll to get a better sense of what level of physical and economic activity residents are planning to resume.

"If we open an indoor swimming pool and nobody wants to come, that would be a mistake," he said. 

Next week, city council will be considering a raft of measures to help fast-track an economic recovery, including removing the mandatory feedback stage for rezoning applications and exploring expanded patio and street space for restaurants and breweries. 

University of Victoria economics professor Rob Gillezeau said that expanded patio space would be positive, though its effects would be limited on the financial side. 

"In terms of the aggregate impact of that type of measure, probably not that large from an economic perspective," he said.

"But the potentially large benefits to expanded patio space are probably on the health dimension, and that is very meaningful."

Stewart also said he would be meeting with people in the television film industry Thursday afternoon to discuss next steps for bringing back that key sector of the economy for the city. 

"It's a great time to get production restarted," he said.

"We could look at policies and changes where production could be done safely. Since we have flattened the curve here to some extent … it's very high on my agenda."

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