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Campaign for new Jewish Community Centre hub secures $75M

Diamond Foundation’s $25m contribution has been matched by community fundraising, governments
JWest Capital Campaign chairman Alex Cristall stands in front of a plaque honouring donations to the current Jewish Community Centre.

The Jewish community’s drive to redevelop the Jewish Community Centre, improve amenities and build residential towers is ramping up thanks to a capital campaign that has so far raised $75 million. Another $25 million is expected to come from the federal government. 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond’s Diamond Foundation in December announced that it would contribute $25 million to the campaign to fund the redevelopment if the Jewish community could match that donation, JWest Capital Campaign chairman Alex Cristall told BIV.

News today is that large contributions from 24 families have matched the Diamond Foundation’s $25 million gift, unlocking that capital for the project.

The provincial government was first out of the gate, promising a $25 million contribution last fall. The federal government then said it would match the provincial outlay, Cristall said.

That totals $100 million so far in contributions and promised money. Cristall’s plan is to seek a second $100 million from small donations through a campaign where many thousands of people give what they can to help make the dream of an improved community centre and a hub, dubbed JWest, a reality.

The current Jewish Community Centre is in a 61-year-old, 135,000-square-foot building on a 3.3-acre parcel of land at the corner of Willow Street and West 41st Avenue.

The site houses the 318-seat Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, a daycare centre and nursery school, a seniors’ lounge, pool and fitness facility and other amenities, Cristall said.

The Jewish pluralistic King David High School is on a neighbouring site and the plan is to move that high school to the JWest hub when redevelopment is complete.

Serious thought toward a redevelopment started in 2014, Cristall said.

City zoning changed to allow more density on the site.

Studies were done. Architectural plans were drawn. Now that at least half of the capital campaign’s target amount has been committed, construction should be able to start within a year, he added.

The JWest project is a partnership between the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, the Jewish Community Centre, and King David High School.

It is broken into two phases so that the community centre can continue to operate during construction.

Construction on the first phase would be on the eastern side of the site, and would include the new 200,000-square-foot community centre, with an expanded Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, fitness space, seniors’ social space and other amenities. It could take three years to complete, Cristall estimated.

Construction on the project’s second phase has an anticipated launch date of 2026, and would include a new high school site and two towers – each of which are likely to be in the 30-storey range, and may have more than 550 homes, he added.

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