Chronology

February 1990

The provincial government intends to move many mental health services to smaller, more specialized regional facilities, including the “maintenance” of a smaller specialized facility at Riverview itself as a “centre of excellence.” A new 358 bed tertiary hospital is planned for the Riverview site. The latter is never built while, at the same time, Riverview Hospital, piece by piece, is shut down over the next 22 years.

March 1993

The Riverview Horticultural Centre Society hosts its first walkabout on the Riverview grounds, with about 60 people attending. The guided walks. with special attention paid to the “arboretum” (collection of trees) will continue into the future.

Spring 1996

A public open house and forum are held to solicit feedback from the public on the value of the Riverview Lands, as part of a comprehensive multidisciplinary study led by former Vancouver planning director Ray Spaxman. The study had been commissioned by the B.C. Buildings Corporation, a part of which will later morph into B.C. Housing. The public forum takes place over two days to accommodate the large number of people who wish to present. Strong sentiments are expressed for the protection of the Lands and continuation of mental health care on the site. In May, Spaxman produces a sketch of a village in which the most seriously ill would be located in small-scale treatment units in a dedicated area, together with a progression of units towards the periphery for patients as they improve and return to normal living.

Port Coquitlam passes a resolution calling for preservation of the Riverview Lands.

February 1998

The Provincial government publishes a new Mental Health plan clarifying that Riverview Hospital will close in seven years with its 663 beds to be replaced by beds in a number of smaller facilities, one of which could be located on the Riverview grounds. The Burke Mountain Naturalists and the Riverview Horticultural Centre Society encourage people to write letters to the provincial government to protest the planned closure.

April 2000

The Burke Mountain Naturalists urge Coquitlam Council to pass a resolution calling for the protection of the Riverview Hospital Lands and encouraging the city to develop a “made in Coquitlam” solution for the future of Riverview. The following month, a petition with 22,000 signatures calling for the preservation of the Lands is presented to the B.C. legislature.

May 2001

A new building for mental health care is proposed on the Riverview Lands, supported by the Burke Mountain Naturalists and the Riverview Horticultural Centre Society, but, again, nothing comes of it.

September 2002

A Riverview Stewardship Group learns that provincial budget cuts are making proper grounds maintenance at Riverview a formidable challenge. Present patient population of 800 is expected to shrink to 125 within three years.

March 2002

The Fraser Health Authority opens Connolly Lodge, a residential facility for 23 patients. This is the first new building constructed at Riverview in 50 years. Cottonwood Lodge (24 beds) in 2006 and Cypress Lodge (20 beds) in 2010 are to follow.

February 2005

The Mayor’s Task Force on Riverview presents a detailed report, “For the Future of Riverview,” to the City of Coquitlam. The report calls for uses of the site consistent with the original vision of Riverview, namely to provide a sanctuary and residential treatment facility for the mentally ill and to provide a site for a provincial botanical garden and arboretum. Other findings: The Lands should remain publicly-owned; the heritage buildings, landscapes and existing tree collection should be protected; market housing is not an option. The task force report is a pre-emptive measure to head off any provincial government plans for turning over the Riverview Lands to developers.

July 2007

Rich Coleman, Housing Minister, announces that the provincial government wants to put 7,000 or more units of housing on the property – a mix of market and social housing along with residences for the mentally ill. The announcement sparks local protests, especially with regard to the market-housing element.

January 2008

Heritage consultant Donald Luxton prepares a Riverview “Statement of Significance” for the City of Coquitlam. The statement provides a description of historic place, the value of historic place, and a detailed chronology of the Lands beginning in 1878.

July 2012

Riverview Hospital closes, with its remaining patients relocated elsewhere.

October 2013

The B.C. government, in a brief one-page information bulletin, announces a visioning process for consulting the public and stakeholders on the future use of the Riverview Lands, with B.C. Housing entrusted with the task. The government assures the public the Lands will not simply be sold off as surplus assets. However, a key “overarching principle” is that all costs for renewal of the Lands be covered by revenue generated from the property, Among the other guiding principles: “an accommodation of First Nations aspirations” and “a commitment to maintain the same amount of greenspace as is currently found on the site.”

Official advisory groups are identified. They include the City of Coquitlam, Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Group, Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, Burke Mountain Naturalists, and the Riverview Horticultural Society. Consultation with the Kwikwetlem First Nation will be done separately.

February and March 2014

B.C. Housing, under its umbrella “Renewing Riverview,” hosts Open House #1 to introduce the visioning process and guiding principles, and to review Riverview’s history history. In the feedback about priorities, mental health care is at the top of the list (87 respondents), followed by the park (36), trees (24) and restoring buildings (21). Many people (20) objected to any housing on the Lands.

April 2014

The Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Group, one of the official Renewing Riverview stakeholders, releases a Statement of Need together with a companion document, highlighting three areas: (1) mental health and addiction facilities, (2) long-term transitional supportive housing, and (3) permanent affordable rental housing.

May 2014

B.C. Housing (Renewing Riverview) stages Open House #2 to report on the feedback from the first open house and to explore future amenity uses and the re-use potential for existing buildings. Information is also presented on economic development opportunities and revenue generation. Generally feedback focuses on the same priorities expressed by respondents at the first open house, namely mental health care and open/green space and trees.

June 2014

The City of Coquitlam releases its policy on Riverview, “Into the future: the Coquitlam Health Campus,” in response to B.C. Housing’s consultation initiative. The paper has been prepared by John Higenbottam, a clinical psychologist and professor with broad experience in mental health matters. It calls for a specialized psychiatric treatment capability together with psychiatric programs for the severely addicted mentally ill (SAMI) population. Also called for are a Coquitlam acute care hospital and a “Health and Wellness Business Park.”

July 2014

The Riverview Village Project, an informal group of individuals later to become the Riverview Village Intentional Community Society, issues a discussion paper calling for a mixed-population intentional community on the Lands for the benefit of the seriously mentally ill. Its title: “Riverview Village: an innovative, ground-breaking community for the Riverview Lands.” The paper has been written by Herschel Hardin, the father of someone with schizophrenia and a longtime advocate for those with a serious mental illness and their families.

August 2014

B.C. Housing, at a meeting with the Riverview Village Project, speculates that the Riverview renewal process, from the beginning to final completion, will take about 15 years, to allow for broad consultation and not rushing things through.

September and October 2014

The Riverview Village Project appears before both Coquitlam City Council and the City’s Riverview Lands Advisory Committee. There is considerable pushback, especially over the idea of people without a serious mental illness living on the Lands, which is considered a betrayal of Riverview’s historical mission. “Market housing” is particularly anathema for the critics. The Riverview Village Project responds that those without an illness are an integral part of the therapeutic concept, and since most of them will have decent incomes, they should be paying market rates and contributing financially to the community. The Project spokesperson also points out that dealing with the post-discharge chronic symptoms of serious mental illness – the objective of the proposed village – is the new, most pressing clinical challenge in the age of anti-psychotics. The City of Coquitlam stays with the alternative “health campus” proposal approved the year before.

September and November 2014

B.C. Housing hosts its third round of public consultations, Open House #3, a set of “Co-Design Workshops,” giving participants the ability to work with artists who bring their ideas for the property to life. The drawings are then displayed, and all participants are encouraged to view them and rate the ideas contained in each one. Forty-seven illustrations are created through the workshops; containing over 320 ideas, with the ideas then grouped into five main themes. The “Mental Health and Wellness” ideas have the highest acceptance rate. Sub-categories under that theme heading include “acute and long-term care,” “therapeutic activities,” “life skills and employment training,” and “social and community interaction.” Other themes are “natural environment,” “economic development,” “residential life,” and “infrastructure.”

May, 2015

The Riverview Village Project releases a “Questions and Answers” document providing additional details about its proposal. The document covers the community model, development of the village, clinical rationale, economic issues, and the key questions of relationships and belonging. Among other things, it points out that residential buildings, for both those with an illness and other residents, will be owned and managed by non-profit housing societies, and all premises will be rental, eliminating possible cleavage between owners and renters. Property speculation and rampant private development will also be eliminated.

June 2015

B.C. Housing organizes a panel of experts as Open House #4 – Julian Somers (SFU professor of health sciences), Darrel Burnham (CEO of Coast Mental Health), Tsur Somerville (director of the UBC Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate) and Brent Toderian (president of Toderian UrbanWorks and former Chief Planner at the City of Vancouver). The panel finally moves the discussion forward to what actually might be created and to practicalities. The panelists’ comments confirm in large part the logic of the Riverview Village proposal. There is widespread agreement among those who spoke from the crowd that Riverview must serve the mentally ill, but considerable opposition to the idea that commercial trade-offs are necessary to financially sustain renewal of the Lands.

Later that month, the Riverview Village Project submits a feedback paper discussing areas of agreement and disagreement, as a step towards reconciling differences. The Burke Mountain Naturalists also make a submission, defending the integrity of the grounds and Riverview’s legacy of providing “rehabilitative mental health care.”

December 2015

B.C. Housing releases “A Vision for Renewing Riverview,” a comprehensive document to guide long-range planning for the Lands, following on the public consultations. The document outlines three overlapping areas – a “North Health Precinct,” a “Village Centre Precinct” with a High Street, and an undefined “Economic Development Precinct.” Simultaneously, and as part of the plan, the provincial government announces the relocation of the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addictions to a purpose-built new building on the Lands, with the Maples Adolescent Treatment Centre and the Provincial Assessment Centre (for those with a developmental disability and a concurrent mental illness), also moving to the Lands from Burnaby.

The envisaged village precinct is to have both non-market and market housing, with the former including housing for those with a mental illness. A “complete community” is the thumbnail description. B.C. Housing notes that “best practice in caring for those with mental illness is to accommodate them within neighbourhoods that include a diverse mix of other residents and housing choices.” Absent from the document, however, is any commitment to designing the community expressly for the benefit of the seriously mentally ill and giving them a major place where they can truly feel they belong and the community is theirs. The Riverview Village Project responds accordingly, in a document entitled “Making the ‘intentional community’ explicit,” urging B.C. Housing to take that next, necessary step.

Notable in the the December 2015 release is a separate statement by the Kwikwetlem First Nation, published in its entirety, asserting aboriginal right and title to the Riverview Lands inclusively. The Kwikwetlem claim adds to the uncertainty about what the final plans for the Lands will be. The group, positioning itself as owners of the Lands rather than a stakeholder, hasn’t participated in the consultation process, but has dealt with B.C. Housing directly.

September 2016

The Riverview Village Project incorporates as the Riverview Village Intentional Community Society (RVICS). “Intentional community” is included in the name to underscore the intentionality of the village the Society is proposing. In the same month, the newly incorporated Society issues “Intentional communities with therapeutic or developmental objectives,” a paper describing seven existing therapeutic communities and their commonalities, providing added understanding of the Riverview Village proposal.

November 2016

The Riverview Village Intentional Community Society issues a new paper “Alignment of the Riverview Village Intentional Community proposal and the Higenbottam recommendations adopted by the City of Coquitlam.” The document responds to a request on the subject made by the City’s Riverview Lands Advisory Committee. Its conclusion: “There is good symbiosis between the two proposals and no basic conflict. Supporters of the main thrust of the Health Campus proposal can, at the same time, also support the Riverview Village proposal and the idea of a therapeutic community.”

May 2017

The provincial election returns a new government. The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Selina Robinson, whose constituency (Coquitlam-Maillardville) includes the Riverview Lands, and to whom B.C. Housing reports, takes charge of the Riverview file. Infrastructure modernization (utilities, etc..) and protection of existing buildings is undertaken by B.C. Housing, but a decision on the Lands as a whole is delayed – a delay which continues well into the future.

June 2018

The Riverview Village Intentional Community Society, in conjunction with the School of Community and Regional Planning at UBC, launches the “inclusiveness project” to explore the general issue of inclusive communities of care, of which intentional communities are a leading example. Seed money is provided by Vancity. Preliminary work begins in the fall of 2017. The following spring, June 2018, a major symposium is held on the subject, with a wide range of participants from among non-profit groups, government, and selected individuals. Planning for the next stage (such as a conference) begins.

March 2019

The “Healing Spirit House,” a new purpose-built short term facility opens at the northern end of the Lands. The facility, for children and youth, houses the Maples Adolescent Treatment Centre, relocated from Burnaby. Also relocated at the facility is the Provincial Assessment Centre for patients 14 and older who have a developmental disability as well as a mental illness. Completion of a new 103-bed Centre for Mental Health and Addictions, meanwhile – to replace the current centre in Burnaby – is projected for late 2021. The master plan for the better part of the Lands, however, where the proposed Riverview Village would be located, is still on hold.

September-October 2019

Minister Selina Robinson undertakes a policy-making exercise within government to provide a firm direction for B.C. Housing on the Lands so that the planning process can go forward. The Riverview Village Intentional Community Society (RVICS) reminds her of their now extensive documentation on their proposed Riverview Village. RVICS also underscores the importance of framing any policy development in terms of innovation and community rather than in institutional terms which “leaves the intentional community dynamic outside the frame.”

Spring 2020

The resulting general direction from Minister Robinson and the provincial government reflects an institutional approach: “to create an integrated community of care, with critical mental health and addiction supports and services, and affordable safe and functional housing to help vulnerable people.” The dynamic of an intentional community, a key innovative step for helping those with a serious mental illness, appears to be missing. RVICS, however, is recognized by the government as a major stakeholder. An extensive public consultation process, led by consultants, is to begin sometime later in the year – the original public consultation was in 2014 – with a detailed draft plan as the objective. The draft will include cost estimates and engineering appraisal of existing buildings. Government ministries like Mental Health and Addictions, Health, and Children and Family Development are also working with Minister Robinson and her ministry (Municipal Affairs and Housing) on development of the Lands.

The Riverview Lands renewal process is now into Year 7 and, with the anticipated consultation, is essentially starting again from square one.