Vancouver’s Jewish Community Centre makeover promises more room for day care, an expanded high school and affordable housing

The current Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver turns 61 years old this year. (Credit: The Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver )

They’re gearing up for the remake of a lifetime at the Jewish Community Centre in Vancouver.

The current facility, built in 1961 in Vancouver’s bustling Oakridge community, is being replaced with a new, 230,000-square-foot complex that aims to redefine what a JCC is all about.

The redevelopment project, called JWest, is due to be finished in about a decade. It will not only offer expanded athletic facilities, a new Holocaust education centre, child care facilities, affordable housing, more seniors programs and room for an expanded high school, but the complex will be big enough to house more than 20 Jewish agencies all under one roof.

Eldad Goldfarb, CEO of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver (JCCGV), said the decision to redevelop the property was spurred by the centre’s aging infrastructure and an increasing demand for community amenities.

“We don’t have enough space for many of our programs. [We have] no room for expansion,” Goldfarb said.

The JCC’s new layout would allow more room for sports, classes and other popular programs.  It would also allow King David High School (KDHS), currently located across the street from the centre, to move next door to the JCC and expand.

A second gym would be reserved exclusively for school meets and classes. The school currently doesn’t have a gym on its site.

Russ Klein, KDHS head of school, said the high school has seen an unprecedented growth in recent years, and is now at capacity.

“We are one of the lucky Jewish day schools in North America. Over the last 10 years, our school population has continued to increase,” he said. “We were below 140 students about 12 years ago and now we’re up around 250 students,” with zero room for expansion.

The lack of a gym has a significant impact on curriculum and schedules since gym is a requirement for students from grades 8 through 10.

“This will allow us to have PE at all times of the day, besides being a huge indoor space for all sorts of other school activities.”

The Jewish Community Centre will include a child care centre with a rooftop play area. Affordable housing and King David High School will be walking distance from the centre. (Credit: Acton Ostry Architects)

The redevelopment would allow more Jewish organizations to move to the JCC.

The centre currently houses about 15 agencies, including the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, Isaac Waldman Library and the Jewish Federation of Vancouver.  

Organizations that had opted to move out of the JCC due to space limitations and expanding needs, may be able to return. Jewish Family Services, which operates a food bank and provides access to housing, financial aid and counseling services, could move back as could the Jewish Historical Society.

The new design will also make room for newcomers. The highly popular Vancouver Jewish Film Festival Society will have an office at the site and the Vancouver Police Department may have a community policing centre onsite. Discussions are currently ongoing with the VPD.

Affordable Housing

Like many cities throughout Canada, Vancouver faces an acute affordable housing shortage. Vancouver had the highest rents in the country, according to, an online rental agency. In June 2022, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $2,377.

The new development is expected to create 500 to 600 new affordable housing units. The proposal offers not only an innovative way to create more housing, but to create access to programs and services for seniors, lower-income families and individuals with disabilities.

The apartments, which will be built in Phase II of the redevelopment, will be located in towers above the high school.

Goldfarb said the redevelopment will also help to address another challenge that Vancouver families are facing: affordable child care.

“There’s a huge waiting list all over the city including [at] our facility, for families that are looking for child care solutions,” he said, noting that the expanded facilities would almost double the JCC’s child care services.

Ezra Shanken, CEO of the Federation of Greater Vancouver, said the redevelopment not only targets many of the problems families are facing in Vancouver right now, but aligns with goals set by the provincial and federal governments.

The province has announced a commitment of $25 million toward the construction of Phase 1, which comprises the JCC and the child care expansion, Shanken said. The federal government has also publicly promised support for the project, although the amount has not yet been announced.

“There’s a lot in this building [project] that speaks to government. That’s a great thing,” Shanken said. “We’re very lucky about that. But it also says that we really are doing the right things. It’s not that we’re synced up government by coincidence. We’re synced up with government because we’re doing the right things. We’re helping where help is needed. That’s why [the governments are] helping us. They want to partner because we’re helping people across the region.”

If all goes according to plan, construction of Phase 1 will break ground next year. But there’s still much to do to complete the two stages of construction, which is estimated by current costs to total around $450 million. “We are in the midst of working on our capital campaign and working toward achieving our fundraising goals,” Goldfarb said.

When Phase 1 breaks ground, the centre’s current parking lot will be excavated and a new, multi-storey community centre and athletic complex will take its place.

Once the first phase is completed, the affordable housing and the high school will be built. The entire redevelopment is expected to take about seven years. 

In the meantime, KDHS has secured a grant from the Diamond Foundation to construct additional classrooms at its present site while it waits for Phase II to be completed.

Klein said it is to the school’s advantage to have the community centre completed first.

“We want it done because we need the gym,” Klein said. “Just having such a vibrant community centre right next door to us and then being part of it, is just going to be huge I think, for the whole Vancouver community.”

Shanken said completing the new state-of-the-art complex will signify an important step for the growing Vancouver Jewish community.

“The greatest gift that this project gives to this community is the belief and the understanding that we can do big things here. We are changing the public consciousness here from ‘we can’t,’ to ‘we can.’ And there are more and more people stepping up and believing in their hearts that we can accomplish this.”