City’s Request for Proposals for bowling site draws controversy

May 22, 2008 at 8:52 pm 5 comments

The City of Victoria gave the development community until the end of May to come up with proposals for the lawn bowling green, the neighbouring Cridge Park and the apex site at the north end of the block. Is two weeks long enough for developers to formulate a plan for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? Where’s the community consultation? The story in today’s paper can be found here. I said,

Robert Randall, president of the Downtown Residents Association, cautiously supports the city’s plan to redevelop the site.

“Whatever is proposed has to be something worth getting rid of the quirky bowling green,” Randall said. Simply paving over the area wouldn’t merit removing the club from the area its played on for 78 years, he added.

Bowling supporters think I’m being a little presumptuous in supporting the idea of redeveloping the site but it’s important to note DRA hasn’t released any official statement on the Crystal Block sites. We are in favour of preserving and creating new open space, parks and green space however we also support badly needed new cultural facilities for Downtown.

The article continues:

Meanwhile Kris Constable, vice-president of the Canadian Pacific Lawn Bowling Club, said they’d like to respond to the request for proposals but the club doesn’t have any land consultants as members who could help them.

Unfortunately for the lawn bowlers, the City’s Request for Proposals specifically states that only applicants with previous major development experience need apply, effectively weeding out any potential community-headed proposals. Their best hope is to lobby the shortlisted developers and convince them that a lawn bowling green harmonizes well with the civic uses the City is hoping to see.

I’m on record as being a supporter of the idea of CP Lawn Bowling Club occupying the Belleville site while acknowledging that there may be alternate uses for the site that would bring greater benefits to Victorians and visitors alike.

The City has a long wish list for Downtown. At the top is a desperately needed public library, currently “temporarily” housed in an office building for the last quarter century. A satellite gallery of the AGGV has been dreamed of for decades as well. Other projects dreamed of include a performing arts centre, a seniors centre to replace the one demolished to make the CRD square and perhaps even a community centre for Downtown residents. Unfortunately, the City of Victoria has very few Downtown holdings suitable for all these projects.

The DRA is disappointed the Request for Proposals went out without any consultation or input from Downtown residents. We can only wait and see if the resulting proposals are worthy of this dynamic and valuable piece of real estate. I’ll be meeting with the lawn bowling folks tomorrow to start some dialogue.

Entry filed under: architecture, media, urban design.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Yule Heibel  |  May 22, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    I just left a long-ish comment in response to your earlier March 20 entry about this proposal (Rethinking the CP lawn bowling green).

    I’m concerned by how this is getting shaped as some partisan issue, with supporters of the AGGV/ Children’s Museum and the City lumped in one corner, and defenders of the CP lawn bowling green in another — as though their interests were mutually exclusive and even diametrically opposed. As I wrote in my comment on that other post, change is inevitable, and instead of drawing partisan lines, we should be figuring out what is best for the city as a whole so that it can thrive as a creative hub for the region.

    I have said this before (in print, in one of my FOCUS Magazine articles) and I’ll say again here: if the Crystal Court Motel proposal by Westbank had gone forward as intended (vs being stillborn due to anticipated neighbourhood opposition), then the AGGV would be on its way to being happily ensconced at the SW corner of Belleville and Douglas, across the street from the lawn bowling green (in a 3P arrangement with Westbank Developments), and the lawn bowling club would be in a completely different position, too.

    As it happens, that proposal was stillborn in a gridlock of opposition and anxiety over change.

    As for what Rob wrote here, “The DRA is disappointed the Request for Proposals went out without any consultation or input from Downtown residents,” I’ll second that.

    Reply
  • 2. Lorne  |  May 23, 2008 at 1:03 am

    I too have commented on the other thread.

    Are you suggesting that the bowlers are being given the boot after 85 odd years because the Art Gallery didn’t get the space it wanted across the street? Is this all about leverage?

    Reply
  • 3. Yule Heibel  |  May 23, 2008 at 8:53 am

    No, not in such a direct way, but if the Art Gallery proposal had been able to go ahead on the private Crystal Court Motel site, I wonder if the city (and staff), perhaps in reaction to seeing the AGGV lose once again the option of being downtown, would have been as ready to move on a comprehensive plan as the one before us now.

    Consider that the planning or workshopping for developing Cridge Park, the lawn bowling green, and the “apex” site all in a bundle happened in a very short period of time, and as far as it has been possible to ascertain, it all happened after the Westbank/ AGGV option fell through. I could imagine that discussions amongst Planning staff and city hall developed organically from the failure of that first Crystal Court Motel/ Westbank/ AGGV proposal: “Gee, are there any other viable options for having the AGGV downtown? Is there anything the city can do?” I.e., not “Hey, this is our chance to boot the lawn bowling club out.”

    But I could imagine that once staff (i.e., Planning) started looking at everything that was on the table, including pressure to get more parking for the Conference Centre and pressure from the people who want a Children’s Museum, this comprehensive development really made sense. It must have been a “Eureka!” moment: the pieces fell into place. The AGGV was the crucial piece, however, and had it “fallen into place” on the private development site, maybe the other pieces wouldn’t have aligned in the same way and we wouldn’t be talking about eliminating all that park / open space at all.

    Full disclosure: I’m not privy to the inner workings of Planning or of the politicians any more than anyone else who informs themselves, so this is conjecture on my part. But I do talk to people as much as I get an opportunity to. There’s a lot of reacting to things and there’s a lot of feeling out community input (gazillions of workshops, VUDA [Victoria Urban Development Agreement], open houses, requests for feedback on downtown plan options, etc.), and Planning has been busy trying to come up with a citizen wish-list. Open space and pocket parks were always top wish-list items at every workshop/ event I ever went to, but it is true that no one ever specified that the space would be dedicated to a specific use such as lawn bowling. Other top wish-list items were downtown cultural facilities, such as an art gallery.

    Frankly, and I have no idea how feasible this would be, I wouldn’t mind if the lawn bowling green were put back exactly at the grade/ street level it’s at now, but on top of the underground parking that apparently is so badly desired. And the “apex” site (I use scare quotes because I’m not sure I’m calling it by the right name: I mean the triangular piece at Douglas & Humboldt) shouldn’t be office space at all: I’d put there art gallery there, make it very urban, right up to the street. As for Cridge Park, perhaps it could serve as the site for a Children’s Museum.

    For what it’s worth, I’m not a fan of putting the AGGV and a Children’s Museum cheek-to-jowl, or worse, in the same building. They represent two different flavors of culture and consumption, and putting them into one pot risks creating what to my mind is a singularly unattractive “Culture-R-Us” package. Just my opinion, take it with a grain of salt. I’m a mom, I have kids, I love kids. But if I go to an art gallery, I don’t necessarily want toddlers in the vicinity. Put the two facilities at opposite ends of the site, please.

    Reply
  • 4. Kris  |  May 27, 2008 at 11:02 am

    It sounds to me like we’re all in sync. The lawn bowling club is not opposed to an art gallery or a children’s museum, obviously. We just want to make sure when choosing a location for either facility that it is in the best interest of the community, and shares a long-term vision. Obviously active green space is hard to come by in the downtown core (we’re the only one), especially with the heritage and tourism surrounding the green we’re currently the good stewards of.
    All we ask is unlike city council, you work with us, and the community, in developing a sound, strategic plan.
    We’re opposed to the current plan by city council, it consisted of no community involvement. Considering the obvious conflict with the board of the Children’s museum and city council, not to mention the fact that city council has just gone to the provincial government asking for funding from tax payers for this pet project, I don’t see who would support this.
    Next month the CP Lawn Bowling Club will be presenting a plan that is long-term and economically feasible while fulfilling the demands of the community.
    In the mean time, feel free to come out and talk to us, join in our visioning sessions, or try lawn bowling if you’ve not tried it before. We had a 15 year old female sign up last week, stretching our demographic even further (We’ve more than doubled in membership and utilization just from last year). We offer free lessons on Friday evenings at 5:30 and Sundays at 1p.m. to anyone who shows up wearing flat soled shoes. (click on my name above for more details about the club).

    Cheers!

    Reply
  • […] little opportunity for constructive feedback, let alone a frank discussion over the fate of the bowling green and Cridge […]

    Reply

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