Jericho Lands is perhaps the most significant urban development site in Canada. As you drive west on 4th towards UBC, these lands stretch from Highbury to Discovery Street, with Jericho Park on your right hand side. Done correctly, it could be a significant contributor to Vancouver’s status as a world-class city and to the strategic objectives of our City, region, citizens, and the site owners.
In 2014 the Department of National Defence sold the 22-hectare federal (east) parcel: half to three local First Nations, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Wauthuth and the other half to Canada Lands Company (CLC), the federal government’s development agency. Recently the three First Nations signed a letter of intent to buy the 15-hectare provincial (west) parcel outright. Indigenous community shared ownership is an exciting aspect of this project as their strategic objectives include not just the revenue stream, but opportunities for their Band members to become involved in the development process, acquiring skills, education, employment and leadership opportunities in doing so.
Currently the Jericho Lands provide a range of important values to members of the local and broader Vancouver community – a school, community centre, gym, park and playing fields to the west. To the east, military family housing, a Resource Centre, pre-school, forest and ample lawns share space with facilities for 39 Canadian Brigade Group members employed at Headquarters.
People tell me they want the two parcels to be developed as one coherent neighbourhood, integrating with our coherent existing neighbourhood, not handled in a piecemeal fashion, and they want the site to include a broad set of community values. A positive ecological impact on Jericho Park and the ocean foreshore is important, which means the site’s hydrology must be understood and respected.
Some past developments of former federal lands have been divisive for the surrounding community (Little Mountain housing site for example), while others have been a huge success and important legacy for the whole region (Granville Island comes to mind).
That’s why I began writing about the Jericho Lands several years ago, and convened meetings large and small – with the neighbourhood, the City, the owners, and with a range of experts and community representatives – to explore how we can help. Early involvement of citizens and a transparent, collaborative consultation process are crucial to having a positive outcome. Jericho Lands is a very complex and significant project, and only by working together can this unique and important site be transformed into something our region’s citizens will be proud of, for generations to come.