Letter From Reverend Clifford Reinhardt
Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the Area D Plan at the University Endowment Lands.
I am Reverend Clifford Reinhardt, an ordained minister on the roster of the British Columbia Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. While I am officially retired, I continue to serve as the Chair of the Board of the Lutheran Manor Society of Vancouver (a non-profit housing operation for low-income people); and also serve the broader church as need arises. I am writing in support of the proposed development of the properties at 2076 Wesbrook Mall and 5889 University Boulevard, now owned by the Pacific Centre for Discipleship and MCC Legacy Trust.
LUTHERAN HISTORY ON THE SITE
First Phase: In the 1960s various Lutheran groups cooperated to provide ministry to students and faculty at UBC. To facilitate this they formed the Lutheran Student Foundation, a non-profit charity incorporated by an Act of the Provincial Legislature. The Foundation negotiated with the provincial government for lease of the property, which included both the corner Lot 5, and the adjoining Lot 6. The Foundation raised funds to construct an educational/worship facility, as well as a house to serve as the residence for the Chaplain. These were completed in about 1967. The site became a vibrant centre not only for university students and professors, but also for people in the broader neighbourhood.
Ministry in that educational facility continued up until about 2005. By then structural moisture and mould had become serious issues, and the administrators decided to stop using it. In the 1990s Chaplains ceased living in the house, and it then was renovated to provide student housing.
Second phase: In the late-1990s the provincial government offered the property for sale to the Lutheran Student Foundation. By this time the face of the Foundation had changed. The various independent Lutheran groups that had cooperated to form the Foundation had amalgamated to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. On March 27, 2003 a legal Declaration of Trust was signed identifying the Foundation as the Trustee and the BC Synod as the Owner of the property. On the same date the sale of the property of Lot 5 was finalized. However, the BC Synod could not afford to also purchase the adjoining Lot 6, which was eventually acquired by the Pacific Centre for Discipleship and MCC Legacy Trust.
Third Phase: The BC Synod resolved to build a new facility on Lot 5, but it lacked the funds to simply tear down the current decrepit building and replace it with a similar facility. The BC Synod was also aware that the broader neighbourhood of the UEL, in which the property resides, was (and still is) changing rapidly. These facts prompted the Synod’s Task Force for Redevelopment (which I led) to reconsider its mission so as to include interest in and concern for the UEL residents. A survey conducted by this Task Force in 2013 indicated the need for facilities and programs for cultural activities, ritual events (like weddings and funerals), seniors’ well-being, and community meetings.
Thus the Task Force decided to seek redevelopment of the property in such a way that the new facility would include revenue-producing elements to support the design and construction of facility-space for this expanded vision. Our plan included a six-storey apartment building, market townhouses, and a meeting hall, with a density of 2.0 FSR. We presented this to the public at open house on April 3, 2014, in a community-meeting room located in Area D. The event was advertised widely. Approximately 25 people attended, including some residents of Area A. While 2 of the attendees expressed opposition to the proposal, all other responses were positive and supportive.
Final Phase: The BC Synod’s Task Force for redevelopment expended considerable time, energy, and funds in its efforts to come up with a plan that satisfied its vision for the property, was economically viable, and would meet with the approval of the authorities of the UEL. The process dragged out over more than 6 years. Eventually, internal support lagged – largely because of the drawn-out timeline and the expense. In 2018, the BC Synod officially halted the redevelopment process and negotiated the sale of Lot 5 to the new owners of Lot 6.
VISION FOR THE PROPERTY
Uniqueness of the site
In the document titled "Area D Neighbourhood Plan University Endowment Lands,” the property’s Land Use Designation is “Institutional Neighbourhood,” whose purpose is described in this way: “To provide for services to the community, UEL, and broader region, with specific related residential uses that are sensitive to adjoining single-family neighbourhood.” While the property resides in Area A, which is characterized predominantly by single-family upscale homes, the property is unique by virtue of its location: a corner lot that adjoins Area D and the University of British Columbia. It makes up one quadrant of the intersection of University Boulevard and Wesbrook Mall, which is typically very busy with vehicular and pedestrian traffice. By virtue of this character alone, the property is undeniably different from its residential context, and is better suited to the kind of consideration appropriate (for example) to Area D. Moreover, its immediate proximity to UBC, without green buffers or larger setbacks, suggests that the values and needs of the university could come into play, alongside other residential and institutional concerns.
Responding to human need
As Metro Vancouver's residential, educational, and urban environment changes, so also its social and economic needs. For many people the cost of housing is very high compared to their household incomes. Responsive and visionary community plans need to address this plight throughout the region. Thus there is an expanded and more significant role for non-profit housing providers and other developers whose vision includes awareness of and response to such need. Non-profit providers are good candidates for such developments, since governmental support for their initiatives typically is predicated upon their enduring commitment to their vision and purposes, which in turn ensures stability on the site and in the broader neighbourhood. Moreover, precisely because the owner/developer is non-profit in stature, its money and other assets remain in the community.
Because the property in question is adjacent to the University of British Columbia (one of the largest and most important universities in Canada), it is ideally situated to also address the social needs of the campus. This could include student housing, common space for community-building that includes spiritual and ethical reflection, and program space that seeks the development of leadership whose vision includes the current and future wellbeing of the broader population. After all, students currently dwelling in the world of academia will re-engage that broader world and will benefit by programs that are predicated upon that vision. In this sense, the property can be used to facilitate social transitions, a role that suits its boundary-spanning character.
Other possibilities include provision for vehicular parking, perhaps for cars and similar vehicles, but especially for bicycles, both rider-propelled and electric; permitting the latter use on the site would help to alleviate traffic and parking congestion in the area.
The Pacific Centre for Discipleship Association and MCC Legacy Trust are part of the Mennonite Christian tradition, which throughout its history has demonstrated its commitment to social wellbeing. The goals of the Area D Plan favour the social well being of the community. While the erstwhile efforts of my church body to redevelop the site eventually came to a disappointing end, I am pleased to support public policy and initiatives on Lots 5 and 6 that align and promote social wellbeing, and urge the authorities who govern the University Endowment Lands to promote and give favourable consideration to such initiatives.