More privatization of parks? City seeks proposals to build/operate 6,400 sq ft restaurant in Harbour Green Park (Coal Harbour)

Harbour Green Park Restaurant
Harbour Green Park restaurant site
The privatization of parks is a topic that warrants significant public discussion. Who wins, who loses?What are the potential losses to the public realm when commercial uses are allowed? What value do residents gain when the City leases prime parkland for private use? How much money do these users pay back into our city’s public finances? How transparent is all of this? Can this be stopped at this point? What’s in it for us, the people of this city?

There are plans for a new privately-run restaurant in Harbour Green Park. The proposed three storey, 6,400 square foot facility would have indoor seating for 170 and outdoor seating for 128. The site is located just north of the grand stairs that connect the waterfront path to Jack Poole Plaza and West Waterfront Road.

Cactus Club Cafe on Jack Poole Plaza

Cactus Club Cafe on Jack Poole Plaza

The City of Vancouver has a issued a request for proposals (RFP) for an operator for Harbour Green Restaurant. The winner of the RFP will also be required to build the restaurant, based on a design supplied by the City. This design was approved on October 20, 2008 (under the Sam Sullivan NPA regime), hence this proposal has been in the works for quite a while. Since 2008, several restaurants have opened in the area at the Convention Centre. As well, a Cactus Club Cafe opened in 2013 on Jack Poole Plaza. There’s also an existing restaurant, the Mill Marine Bistro & Bar already located in Harbour Green Park. Is there really need for another privately-run restaurant in the area, on public land? Are there any good reasons to stop this process now? Conversely are there any good reasons that this absolutely must go ahead with this process this month?

Another issue with locating a restaurant in a waterfront park is the impact on public views — and public views are one of the top attractions bringing people from around the world for tourism and conventions. The three-storey building would block a number of views of the water from the plaza above. As well, as pedestrians will have mountain views to the north blocked as they walk down the grand stairs to the water. The wall of a 3-storey restaurant will be in the way.

Views of water from terrace would be blocked by restaurant

Views of water from the terrace above the park would be blocked by restaurant; there would also be a partial blockage of views from the grand stairs (to the north)

The blockage of views is not a new phenomena in Vancouver; the recently-completed Cactus Club on English Bay blocked views street end views of the water. The same architects, Acton Ostry, were behind that design; this firm designed the proposed Harbour Green Park waterfront restaurant. What benefits would the public receive if this new restaurant were to go ahead? Are the trade-offs worth it? Will any of our elected officials show leadership and initiate a fresh discussion of the issues at stake?

Through a long and tortuous, convoluted journey, the Boathouse restaurant in Kitsilano Park is now run by a privately-held multinational conglomerate owned by one man; further details are in our previous post: Humble food stand on Kits Beach ends up controlled by billion-dollar private Texas company. How did this happen? (September 29, 2014) Has the City learned any of the lessons from this privatization of public land, or will they keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again? Privatization of public parks and beaches is exactly the kind of thing that recently-deceased Eleanor Hadley fought against since the 1960s. (See A tribute to Eleanor Hadley (1921 – 2015): Champion of Stanley Park, English Bay, Vancouver’s urban parks and beaches, 7-March-2015)

From previous queries by CityHallWatch, it is impossible for the public get obtain any specific detail on the revenues received from the private use of park spaces in the cases mentioned above (Cactus Club, Boathouse, etc.). Public oversight and scrutiny is impossible. How do we know our elected officials and public servants are getting us a good deal?

It may be worth noting that several restaurant firms and owners have a history of providing campaign contributions to a local political party. In 2014, Vision Vancouver received $40,000 from Keg Restaurants Ltd, while an owner of the firm, David Aisenstat donated another $100,000 as an individual.

The firms that are interested in submitting documents for the RFP need to consider a few key dates. There’s a meeting scheduled for May 12th and all firms interested in attending are required by the City to register by May 8th. Applicants are strongly encouraged to attend this meeting. The closing date for bids is June 23, 2015. Further details are available on the City’s Supply Management webpage. Additional renderings and photos of the site are included below:

Green Harbour Park Restaurantdesign for restaurant
Green Harbour Park restaurant

Existing Restaurant in Harbour Green Park:

The Mill Marine Bistro & Bar (existing restaurant)

The Mill Marine Bistro & Bar (existing restaurant)

Nearby Coal Harbour Cactus Club opened in 2013

The neighbouring Cactus Club Cafe opened in 2013

Context: The Grand Stair
Grand stair
Grand stair
The other end of Harbour Green Park:
Habour Green Park

View from grand stair

View from grand stair

One thought on “More privatization of parks? City seeks proposals to build/operate 6,400 sq ft restaurant in Harbour Green Park (Coal Harbour)

  1. Saw the English Bay Catcus Club for the first time recently and it’s a huge view-blocking eyesore.
    The use of public parks/greenspace for private and seasonally exclusive use negatively impacts far more Citizens than it benefits. Bard on The Beach covers a huge open space that should be left available to the Public but since it generates moderate income for the VPB that’s all that matters. Then we have non-profits such as lawn-bowling clubs and baseball leagues that lease public park space for 1 dollar/year. Bike/drive around and you’ll see huge areas all over the COV fenced-off for single sport groups like Hillcrest Park where virtually half of the park is off-limits to the Public, other parks have the same restrictions. Most indoor and outdoor lawn-bowling clubs pay only 1 dollar/yr for their groomed lands and buildings. While they are supposed to cover ongoing maintenance costs and shared improvements time and again the VPV/COV are forced to pay when dues and fund-raising fall short as the buildings and properties are viewed as ‘ VPB/COV assets ‘ When they can’t come up with money for new back-stops, infields, windows, roofs, dance floors and even bars the Public end up paying the costs.
    The well-connected Pacific Lawn Bowling Club was given $ 350,000 to move into the Hillcrest Centre into a private space they lease back from the VPB for 1 dollar/year. The sweetheart deals don’t end there, the Vancouver Canadians Baseball Club received 5 years free rent of Nat Bailey Stadium and low and behold the owners are featured an Shaw Cable’s ‘Dream Homes’
    Some non-profits have arrangments with the VPB where they can direct financial donations they make to the VPB back towards their own organizations/clubs/non-profits and receive a tax-receipt, it’s pretty sweet when you can take money from your left pocket, stuff it into your right pocket and receive an official VPB issued record of the ‘ transaction ‘ for the Canada Revenue Agency.
    It takes a lot of digging as the VPB likes to bury accounting into obscure budgets that never make it to a Public VPB meeting. The revenues collected from most Adult User groups that take out permits and have exclusive use of shrinking Public space in an increasingly congested City doesn’t come close to covering operating/maintenance costs let alone those related to replacing fields, diamonds, tennis courts, basketball courts and so on.

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