A community group lobbying Victoria to purchase a property for community space has invited Saanich residents to a rally Sunday, while pointing to a potential deal that could benefit both communities.
Jenn Neilson said she would be “thrilled to have anyone from anywhere” come out for Sunday’s rally asking Victoria to purchase and revitalize the former Blanshard elementary school site at 950 Kings Road for what she said would be much-needed green space and public amenities.
As the region grows and density increases,residents need a community backyard and living space, said Neilson. Residents from across Greater Victoria but especially Saanich would benefit from such a space, she said.
This lobbying of Victoria by a community group bears a striking similarity to efforts of a Saanich community group (Save Kings Park) to turn 2.2 hectares of surplus land owned by BC Hydro into a public park. This push also rests on the argument that Saanich needs more community space as its density increases.
Those efforts are starting to pay off after Saanich signed a conditional agreement to purchase the land for $5.5 million. Saanich, however, has not yet decided what to do with the land, and it plans to sell portions of it, if it cannot raise $2.75 million in funding from other sources including other municipal governments to help defray costs.
The so-called Kings Park property lies near Saanich’s border with both Victoria and Oak Bay, and residents from both communities would benefit from its conversion into a public park, just as Saanich residents would benefit from a new community space in the Hillside-Quadra area if Victoria were to purchase the former Blanshard elementary school site.
“If Saanich were willing to contribute to the purchase of this property [former Blanshard elementary school site], perhaps in exchange for Victoria contributing to that other property [Kings Park], that would be fantastic,” said Neilson.
Municipal boundaries in the Greater Victoria area might be hard and fast, she said, but in real life, the boundaries between various communities and their respective residents are much more fluid.
“The key is for us all to work together,” she said.
Organizers scheduled the rally for 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the site of the former school, which closed in 2003 because of declining enrolment. A four-storey, 320-bed residential and dementia care facility is set to open in 2020 on the former school’s field.
Neilson said the facility would serve residents from across the region, so it seems reasonable that this part of Victoria receive additional amenities.
Neilson is also part of a group pushing for additional library space in the area that could also benefit Saanich, and the former Blanshard elementary school site could host that additional space.
Neilson, however, stressed that the push for a new library is not location specific.