The vision for The Roundabout began with
me and here I share it with you.
My name is Kevin. I’ve lived in West Vancouver for 20 years and moved to the Horseshoe Bay neighborhood in 2012 with my wife Annie and my son Thomas. We chose this place because of its natural amenities, quirky character, and frankly, the lack of development. Things are colorful here, there is a village-charm, a vestige of days I thought long gone. We live here with intention and want to stay put, grow roots, and to get to know and be known by our neighbors.
Our home is 200 metres from St. Monica’s Church, I pass by daily. I am intrigued by where it sits – quite literally the hub of our neighborhood, and a gateway to the bay itself. I have been inside the church on several occasions, but it was not until the town hall meeting in October of 2018, where I listened to over 150 people share stories about St. Monica’s church, what it was, how it felt, and what it meant to them, that I stopped saying “someone should do something with that place” and began to realize that “I could do something with that place.”
In the year since, I’ve spoken with dozens of neighbors, local groups, and community organizations. With each conversation my vision for the property has expanded, shifted, and crystallized. People have expressed interest and enthusiasm at the prospect of being a part of a community renewal project, a shared vision — and that enthusiasm is inspiring and contagious.
There is not just potential in this project, there is a demand for it. Demand for affordable, flexible, casual, intimate, overlapping, and multi-purpose shared space that can accommodate a broad spectrum of activities from neighborhood potlucks and film nights, to daycare, youth programming, arts events, and a meeting space for local groups like Emergency Services, Girl Guides, AA — the list goes on.
As new development springs up all around us, the need for this kind of space can only grow. Denser neighborhoods need more community space, not less. So for me, this is not only about potential, it is also about working together as a neighborhood and standing up for the health and character of our community. It is about realizing what our community can do together, when we work towards a common goal, for the common good.
Old buildings embody in their boards, history and intimacy. They preserve what is both unique and familiar in our neighborhoods. They provide a link between those of us here now, and those who were here before us, where we came from, and where we are going. The health of a neighbourhood and the people who live in it, is rooted in a sense of belonging, and belonging is bound up with inclusion, purpose, contribution, and connection to other people and place. To foster these things we have to have a space to gather, connect, regenerate, share, and grow. So why save an old church? How can we afford not to?
The current owner plans to tear down the church, change the zoning, create a land assembly, build fourteen homes on the property, and provides nothing meaningful in exchange for the wasted potential and loss of community space. I agree that we need more diverse housing options and that this site offers capacity to address that need. But we can do better than just housing. The potential of this site demands that we renew it as a vibrant and unique community space, along with housing that is both diverse AND affordable, but in that order. And the community demands it too.
Ultimately, I find it reprehensible that decision makers are considering the development proposal for this historic site separate from the equally historic Local Area Plan (LAP) for Horseshoe Bay. This kind of site is precisely what a LAP should consider and to assert that collaboration has already occurred is preposterous and defies logic. True collaboration occurs where top-down policies, like the Official Community Plan (OCP) and LAP intersect with ground up feedback about local needs and desires and produces outcomes that reflect both sides. So this then, is also about the credibility of genuine community engagement between the District of West Vancouver, the Horseshoe Bay LAP, and the residents who live here.
The Roundabout represents a natural culmination of much of my life’s experience. It has to do with my beliefs, how I see the world, and how I want to contribute to it. It has to do with my physical circumstances, the films and books that inspire me, my view of the housing crisis, stewarding our environment, and how to live differently and grow to be a better you. For me, this has to do with how we relate to the place where we live and the people we share our neighborhood with. Interestingly, this has helped me realize this is not about me, it’s about us. And I want us to pursue the common good, in uncommon (roundabout) ways, with our community, for our community.
The Roundabout will be a non-profit multi-purpose facility that cultivates a sense of place, belonging, social connection, and well-being that is open to and inclusive of anyone who wants to engage in building together a space that reflects the values and character of our neighborhood, and the people who live in it.
I want to express a deep sense of gratitude to everyone who has already gathered around and contributed to this vision. Whatever happens, I am better off, because through this I am already getting to know and be known by my neighbours. See? It’s working!