Saanich Neighbourhood Place plans big for child care expansion

Saanich council throws support behind provincial grant application by family resource centre for $1.2-million child care facility

Colleen Hobson

Saanich Neighbourhood Place has big plans to build a customized child care facility, but it has a long way to go before workers break ground on the project.

On Monday, Saanich council was asked to lend its written support to the estimated $1.2-million project, to be built behind Pearkes Recreation Centre if all goes as planned.

“We’re just taking our very first baby steps towards this project,” said Colleen Hobson, executive director with Saanich Neighbourhood Place.

The facility would allow for 25 full-time preschool and 24 infant toddler spaces, as well as four offices that would house various parental and family support service providers.

But funding the project will involve a patchwork of applications and depend heavily on the approval of a $500,000 provincial capital grant from the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development.

“We’re expecting to apply sometime in January or February, and we should hear back within a few months,” she said. “The province needs some concrete plans so they know we’re invested and have community support.”

Another $200,000 in funding could come from a 2009 amenity commitment by Tillicum Centre developer RioCan. However, that cash would only be available if RioCan moves ahead on a mixed use project on the northwest side of the property.

“We have huge support from Gorge Tillicum Community Association, Gorge Tillicum Urban Farmers and we still have to do all our public participation work. That will be a big part of this,” Hobson said.

The proposed building would be located next to a buffer zone for wildlife habitat and sensitive ecosystems, according to a preliminary analysis from Saanich Parks and Recreation. Impact analysis on those areas would be completed if a development application comes forward.

A slate of children and family programming is already run out of SNP: Best Babies prenatal outreach, food security classes, a weekly family dinner and short-term childminding are all onsite.

But an expansion of the roughly 6,000 licensed childcare spaces in the Capital Region is needed, Hobson said.

“This project is still a dream, but it’s one we believe we can achieve,” she said.

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