New Vancouver park at Oakridge Centre will be first city-owned but privately-maintained park

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      The rooftop park at the new Oakridge Centre will be a first in Vancouver in more than one way.

      One is that with its size of 3.65 hectares, the park will be the first of its kind of this scale.

      Also, it will become the first city-owned park that will be maintained by private workers, and not by park board employees.

      This model could set a precedent, and there are concerns about what this means for future large-scale developments.

      Through Local 1004, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) represents Vancouver park board employees.

      According to CUPE 1004 president Andrew Ledger, union members maintain all public parks in the city.

      “To establish a new public park that is a city-owned entity, and to not have it maintained by park board employees is, in our estimation, an act of contracting out work,” Ledger told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      The park board approved the concept for the rooftop park in a meeting on July 9 this year. But it was not park board that determined that the maintenance of the park will not be done by city employees.

      It was city council that included as one of the conditions when it approved the rezoning of the Oakridge Centre in 2014 that the property owner will be responsible for the maintenance, repair, and replacement of the park.

      Ledger said: “There is no one more qualified to provide the maintenance work at the proposed park at Oakridge…than the members of CUPE 1004 who work for the park board.”

      The shopping centre will be redeveloped by the QuadReal Property Group and Westbank Corp.

      The plan includes 10 towers, with the tallest at 44 storeys, and three mid-rise buildings with commercial, office, and residential units.

      John Irwin is an SFU lecturer, and a candidate with the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) for park board in this fall’s civic election.

      Irwin said that the privatized maintenance of the rooftop park may be used as a model for other major rezoning applications that involve the provision of public spaces.

      Irwin told the Straight by phone that it is conceivable that a proportion of new public parks may end up being maintained by “private gardeners”.

      The rooftop park at the redeveloped Oakridge Centre is projected to be completed and transferred to the city in 2028.