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Richmond Road school property 'not the right location' for hospice, society says

The site borders Bowker Creek, and many people were concerned that development there would affect the waterway’s environment.
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The Victoria Hospice Society was considering a 1.3-acre parcel next to the former Richmond Elementary as a site for a new hospice. VIA VICTORIA HOSPICE

The Victoria Hospice Society has withdrawn its proposal to purchase a 1.3-acre parcel of Greater Victoria School District land next to the former Richmond Elementary for $2.5 million.

The adjacent school building serves as the south campus of Lansdowne Middle School.

“After careful consideration we have determined that the Richmond Road site is not the right location for our new facility,” said society chair Trudi Brown.

“We appreciate the input we have received from the community that helped us reach this decision, and we remain committed to finding a new location where we can continue to offer compassionate end-of-life care.”

The society said that input from the Friends of Bowker Creek Society, the Camosun Community Association and area neighbours, as well as consideration of the Bowker Creek Initiative, were keys to the decision.

The Bowker Creek Initiative is a partnership involving local governments and community groups that works to support Bowker Creek and its watershed.

The site that was being considered borders Bowker Creek, and many people were concerned that development there would affect the waterway’s environment.

“Victoria Hospice is built on community and lasting relationships, and we understand the concerns raised about the potential impact of development around Bowker Creek,” Brown said. “We want to celebrate any new location in partnership with the community and look forward to doing so in the future.”

Among the vocal opponents of using the proposed site was Deanna Pfeifer, who helped organize a rally against the move in 2022.

“I’m so happy,” said Pfeifer, who was also involved in the successful effort to preserve a nearby natural area next to Bowker Creek off Kings Road. “I am excited about this decision and I really am thinking about the children now and in the future, being able to enjoy the space — and the families that are going to be able to see wetlands and that greenspace.”

She said the society deserves credit for changing direction. “I’m so glad that they finally listened to us.”

The Greater Victoria School Board voted in March 2022 to approve the $2.5-million sale of the land to the hospice society, and subdivision at the site was among the criteria for the purchase agreement.

The society submitted a subdivision application to the District of Saanich on Sept. 15, 2023. That step allowed the society to seek more information about developing the site.

“We listened to people’s concerns and we also did our own research,” Brown said. “We had biologists and architects and stream specialists, and it became clear that this probably wasn’t the right place for us or the community.”

Brown said the society is exploring “all available options” in its ongoing search.

The 18-bed hospice is currently in the 80-year old Richmond Pavilion building on the Royal Jubilee Hospital campus, and is considered to be unsuitable for redevelopment or expansion. The search for a new home has been going on for the past 20 years.

“Our hospice is great and does a wonderful job, but it is in the oldest part of the hospital and it looks like an old hospital ward,” Brown said. “We’d like to have something that looks a little bit better and makes people more comfortable, and their families and friends.”

The proximity of the school district site to the hospital was one of the reasons it was attractive to the society.

jbell@timescolonist.com