The City of White Rock started proceedings Tuesday morning to expropriate land in the town centre to create a ‘Town Square’ park.
The decision to acquire the 1510 Johnston Rd. property – owned by Imperial Oil – was approved by council during a closed meeting on Monday afternoon and announced by Mayor Wayne Baldwin during Monday’s night’s regular council meeting.
The property, at the northeast corner of Russell Avenue and Johnston Road – south of the Coast Capital Playhouse – is the site of a former gas station, but has been vacant for more than 20 years.
It has been used as a pay-parking lot to raise funds for local Rotary Club projects for over a decade.
While a purchase price is yet to be determined, Baldwin said that “no money from taxes will be put in there.”
“The costs will be covered by DCCs (development cost charges), land sale revenues and CACs (community amenity contributions) paid by developers,” he said.
He noted the expropriation of the land for a park purpose is consistent with the city’s Town Centre Urban Design Plan created in 2011.
A press release issued shortly after the announcement states the expropriation is also “in alignment with policies in the City’s Official Community Plan (OCP) that call for the creation of a Town Square at Johnston Road and Russell Avenue.”
Baldwin said the acquisition “is an investment which will benefit generations to come.”
“This is the first step towards providing White Rock with a publicly-owned, pedestrian-friendly Town Square in the Town Centre,” Baldwin said in the release.
The square, once complete, is to include an “accessible and level ‘programmable’ area” with tables and chairs, shade trees and “other pedestrian-friendly features.”
The release said the area would include public art and be a venue for special events “celebrating White Rock’s vibrant arts and culture.”
The lot, originally enclosed by a solid wood fence after demolition of the gas station, became a venue for an adhoc group of artists who painted an ever-changing mural on the fence for a period of 10 years, assisted by contributions from local merchants.
The lot is the same area where drilling work in January frustrated merchants.
At that time, an Imperial Oil spokesperson confirmed the work was “to collect additional environmental data associated with a former service station.”
The release said that while the purchase price hadn’t yet been arrived at, the city would provide “updates as this process progresses.”
– with files from Tracy Holmes