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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Coal Harbour School, social housing and daycare on the way

A new school in Coal Harbour, with a childcare facility and social housing above it, is moving forward 24 years after it was first conceived.

A city report outlines plans for the “Coal Harbour School, Childcare and Affordable Housing Project” next to the Coal Harbour Community Centre at the foot of Broughton Street.

The $80 million project is made possible through contributions from the Vancouver School Board, the provincial government and tens of millions of dollars in community amenity contributions from recently completed condominium developments in the downtown core.

The six-storey development, designed by Henriquez Partners Architects, will consist of:

  • a new Coal Harbour elementary school
  • 65-space daycare with four programs
  • 60 social housing units, with 58 per cent being two- and three-bedroom
  • constructed to LEED Gold standard, and targeting Passive House Certification

The city owns the land, and a new elementary school has been identified for the site as far back as 1996. The existing Coal Harbour Community Centre opened in 2000.

East Elevation; Coal Harbour Park in the foreground
East Elevation; Coal Harbour Park in the foreground. Credit: Henriquez Partners Architects
Coal Harbour school site social housing
Project location next to Coal Harbour Community Centre. Credit: Henriquez Partners Architects

The estimated construction cost of the 60 social housing units is $36.5 million, or approximately $608,000 per unit. Taking into consideration the land value, which is estimated at $25.4 million according to the city, the total housing development cost is $61.9 million — or $1 million per unit on average.

Social housing cost per unit from city report
Social housing cost per unit from city report. Credit: City of Vancouver

The city report states: “The estimated construction costs reflect the aggressive energy efficiency standards of the school and childcare spaces that are further incorporated into the design of the housing space (targeting Passive House certification and Net Zero energy). These strategies will yield significant operating savings for the tenants. Even with the higher building standard and the associated costs, it is still prudent to integrate housing into the Project as it would cost the City even more to acquire another site in the neighbourhood to deliver the same number of units of housing.”

It adds: “The mixed use Project will advance the City’s childcare and housing objectives by co-locating the new Coal Harbour Elementary School and the existing Coal Harbour Community Centre with a new childcare facility and non-market housing.”

Section showing the organization of uses
Section showing the organization of uses. Credit: Henriquez Partners Architects

The project is also facing a tight timeline, as part of the plan is to move students from Lord Roberts Annex on Nelson Street, to the new school, so BC Hydro can construct a new substation near the annex.

“There is a significant interest by the VBE (Vancouver Board of Education) to have this Project completed as soon as possible, as VBE recently entered into an agreement with BC Hydro to locate a substation near the Lord Roberts Annex Elementary School. To facilitate this BC Hydro project, the students at Lord Roberts Annex will be relocated to the completed School, to allow construction of the substation to commence.”

If all goes according to plan, construction could begin as early as Nov 2021 with completion by June 2024.

On the nearly one-million dollar per unit cost of the social housing including the land value, the city report states the tight timeline due to the substation project means the ability to explore other options was limited.

“Given the tight project timeline associated with delivering the school component of the Project, triggered by the BC Hydro substation development needs for downtown Vancouver, staff was not able to explore opportunities to seek additional density for more affordable housing units through rezoning.”

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Peter Meiszner
Peter Meiszner
Peter Meiszner is an experienced journalist and media relations professional, based in Vancouver. As founder of urbanYVR.com, he has been reporting on urban development across the Lower Mainland since 2016, and has also served as vice-chair of the Gastown Historic Area Planning Committee. In October 2022, he was elected to Vancouver city council and is no longer actively reporting for urbanYVR.

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