British Columbia

Back to school? Victoria councillor says old school could be key to expanding community centre

The Quadra Village Community Centre in Victoria says it needs more space, and a school across the street may hold the answer.

Quadra Village Community Centre is at capacity, needs room to maintain programs

Neighbourhood advocates say Quadra Village Community Centre meets several needs in the community, including daycare. (Liam Britten/CBC)

Why does a Victoria community centre want to cross the road?

In the case of the Quadra Village Community Centre, it's to get much-needed space that its executive director says is essential to keeping cultural organizations, youth programs, seniors' groups and a daycare with enough room to operate.

The facility in the Hillside-Quadra neighbourhood is the most-used community centre in Victoria, executive director Kelly Greenwell said, with about 79,000 visitors last year.

The building is at capacity, he said, in a densifying neighbourhood where child care, especially, is a growing need. On top of that, the centre caters to people from farther afield.

Young children play in a fenced-off area of the Quadra Village Community Centre. The school supports several daycare programs. (Liam Britten/CBC)

"What we do is very important to folks that live in the immediate area, but we definitely serve clients, as well, from Saanich, from Esquimalt, even as far away as Oak Bay.

"So, there's a lot of people who do come to the types of programs that we have, even if they can't just walk to them."

Greenwell said a former elementary school across the street, owned by the Capital Regional District and leased out to various groups, could provide the space the centre needs.

He said one option is for the city to buy the building and make it part of the centre — an idea supported by many in the community and some on city council.

Residents rally

The centre had several dozen people outside it Sunday, rallying for more community services in the neighbourhood.

The event was organized by Jenn Neilson, a neighbourhood woman who argues Hillside-Quadra is underserved compared to other parts of the city, lacking both a high school and library branch. The community centre, she said, fills some of those needs.

"It's really about needing space to gather and then to get to know each other and to work on projects together," Neilson said. "A community living room and a community backyard, if you will."

Child care is a critical need in the neighbourhood, she added, and the community centre helps with that.

"That's a huge crunch for young families and people are having to make really tough decisions about how to go forward given the cost of child care," she said. "So anything we can do ... to help create more child-care spaces, I think, is a really important thing to try to do."

Councillor says motion coming

Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt said he believes buying the school is a smart move. The centre already leases the gym for some of its programs.

He plans to put forward a motion to council in coming weeks directing staff to look into the possibility.

At left, a former elementary school now owned by the Capital Regional District. At right, Quadra Village Community Centre. (Liam Britten/CBC)

The most notable projects undertaken in the Hillside-Quadra neighbourhood have been regional services like a new dementia hospital. He said the city has long intended to improve services focused on the immediate neighbourhood.

"It does make sense," Isitt said. "It's a vibrant neighbourhood.… There is a lot of elements of a strong neighbourhood."

The costs of purchasing the school have not been discussed, he said.

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