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Drug addiction rehabilitation centre will be B.C.’s largest

Grant Cameron
Drug addiction rehabilitation centre will be B.C.’s largest
COURTESY OF VANCOUVER COASTAL HEALTH, B.C. HOUSING AND CITY OF VANCOUVER — A rendering of the view looking north across East 1st Avenue of the proposed $81-million drug addiction rehabilitation centre and social housing project in Vancouver.

Shovels could soon be in the ground for a large-scale, $81-million, state-of-the-art drug addiction rehabilitation centre and social housing project in a residential area of east Vancouver.

City council unanimously approved rezoning for the project at a meeting in February, paving the way for construction to begin in early 2020 if it passes the development approval process.

At 141,000 square feet, with a 55,000-square-foot withdrawal management centre, the facility on a rectangular piece of property at the northeast corner of Clark Drive and East 1st Avenue will be the largest of its kind in British Columbia. Construction is expected to take up to four years.

The City of Vancouver, the province, through B.C. Housing, and Vancouver Coastal Health formed a partnership to develop the project. The province will be providing capital funding.

The pricetag includes the estimated cost of remediating the property, developing the land and building the facility.

By way of breakdown, it includes $17 million for the property’s lease over a 99-year term, $47 million for construction and $18 million for soft costs.

HDR Architecture of Vancouver is working on conceptual drawings for the project. The venture will have a community health component on the first two levels of the building that includes 51 in-patient beds and 20 transitional beds for those who have completed detox and are awaiting transition to residential treatment programs in the region.

Ninety social housing units are planned on 60,000 square feet of floor area on the upper floors of the project and 3,000 square feet is being set aside for a social enterprise space which will focus on Indigenous healing and wellness and community economic development.


A purpose-built centre also allows us to provide inpatient clients with their own private rooms

— Matt Kieltyka

Vancouver Coastal Health


When it opens, the new complex will replace the existing Vancouver Detox Centre just 10 blocks away at 377 East 2nd Ave. which is smaller and has been in operation for more than 30 years. The existing detox facility is undersized and no longer able to meet the growing demand for withdrawal and substance use programs in Vancouver.

 The detox facility has failing infrastructure, spaces that do not meet minimum criteria and a design that does not support the best practices of care.

Matt Kieltyka, a public affairs specialist with Vancouver Coastal Health, says the new centre will have huge benefits over the current site.

“The proposed centre at Clark and 1st will allow us to offer the full range of withdrawal management services – inpatient, outpatient and home-based services – at one site to make it easier for clients to access and navigate services, so they get the right help at the right time.”

The spacious centre will offer inpatient withdrawal management and trauma services and informed care at one location as well as a range of outpatient, at-home withdrawal management services.

There will also be an academic teaching and learning centre to allow opportunities for medical professionals and academic researchers to build and transfer knowledge of rehab services.

“A purpose-built centre also allows us to provide inpatient clients with their own private rooms, which is not something that’s not possible at the current centre but provides a more dignified and comfortable space for people,” says Kieltyka. 

Preliminary designs show the centre will be a modular-looking structure with two residential mid-rise structures at the ends and a large rooftop patio in the middle. The site is being designed to blend into the existing sloping topography of the area. The residential component was split into separate buildings to allow sunlight access through the site and reduce the appearance of scale. Balconies and varied window patterns will add visual interest to the building facade.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says the project will contribute positively to the local community.

“We are pleased to be working alongside B.C. Housing and Vancouver Coastal Health on this important project which would provide vital housing, health services and job space for Vancouver’s residents in a development that is responsibly and safely managed.”

Bonnie Wilson, director of community health services, inner-city, at Vancouver Coastal Health, says the project will help address two urgent needs in the community, namely housing and support for people struggling with problematic substance use.

B.C. Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selena Robinson says it’s great to see the development move another step closer to reality.

“Through this one building we’ll be able to provide affordable housing, treatment supports for people who need them, and employment opportunities – helping to build a healthy and resilient community,” she says.

Provincial Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy says replacing the old detox centre is an important step towards improving care for people living with addictions.

“Having sobering beds as well as both inpatient and outpatient withdrawal management and then transitional beds will ensure people have supports all along their pathway to hope and healing.”

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