VANCOUVER After more than a decade of lobbying for a space to cook, gather and socialize, Southeast Vancouver seniors will finally get a community centre of their own.
The city has found the cash to fill the funding gap and start construction on a $7.5-million facility for seniors adjacent to the Killarney Community Centre, Mayor Gregor Robertson's office announced Sunday.
Council will vote this week whether to dedicate $1.2 million from last year's operating surplus to building the seniors centre.
The announcement took the community by surprise, as earlier in January Vision Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie said construction wouldn't be possible without an additional $1.2 million from the province. (The city has already promised $2.5 million and donated land, the province $1.3 million and the federal government $2.5 million.)
But after combing through last year's finances, Louie is confident the city will have enough to cover the remaining costs itself.
"We've saved enough money," Louie said, adding it's a more appropriate source of cash than taking community amenity contributions from other neighbourhoods, as proposed by NPA park board commissioner Melissa DeGenova last November.
"That's just not fair," Louie said.
Regardless of how the city found the money, Killarney seniors are thrilled at the long-awaited news.
"I'm feeling as though I'm the recipient of a miracle," said Lorna Gibbs of the Southeast Vancouver Seniors' Arts & Cultural Society.
"We've finally convinced people there's a need and a rising demographic that won't go away any time soon," she said, crediting Louie and Vancouver South MP Wai Young for their work.
Home to one third of seniors in Vancouver, the community will finally have somewhere they can get a hot meal and interact with peers close to home, Gibbs said.
"It can make such a difference to people who are lonely and isolated," she said. "Seniors have been giving all their lives now it's their turn to have something special."
The Killarney Community Centre Society, one of six in a legal battle with the park board, issued a statement saying it looks forward to working closely with the seniors and the city to build the centre.
But the society also suggested the city's announcement was a "knee-jerk reaction to quell recent bad press" about the lawsuit. (Louie dismissed that theory.)
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