Vancouver’s JWest project is getting a $25-million boost from Ottawa

Architectural rendering of the new JWest project in Vancouver (Credit: Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver)

The federal government will match the B.C. government’s $25 million in funding for a Jewish community hub in Vancouver, Harjit Sajjan, the minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada, said at a press conference Dec. 5.

The project, dubbed JWest, includes the redevelopment and expansion of the existing Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, affordable housing units and increased child care spaces, updated arts, cultural, heritage and athletic facilities, and an expanded Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.

It will also house King David High School, which is currently located across the street from the JCC.

Sajjan and Vancouver Granville MP Taleeb Noormohamed attended the press conference at the JCC to announce the funding commitment on behalf of Minister of Heritage Pablo Rodriguez.

In his remarks, Sajjan pointed to how the JCC welcomes people from all backgrounds, adding that he’s picked up his kids from events at the facility “a number of times.”

“The J, as it’s also known to locals, is a pillar of our city, a unique gathering space for shared experiences and, not to mention, an important hub for a number of community organizations,” Sajjan said.

He framed the government’s support for the project in the context of combatting rising antisemitism.

“We know investments in cultural infrastructure like this one helps us to celebrate, preserve and honour the culture of our Jewish Canadian communities while strengthening a diverse and inclusive Canada,” said Sajjan.

Noormohamed said JWest is “not just a project for the Jewish community.”

“This is a project that signifies the contribution and the commitment of the Jewish community to all of us and all of Vancouver,” he said.

Ezra Shanken, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, told The CJN that while the Liberal government had committed to funding JWest in its most recent budget, it hadn’t committed a firm dollar amount.

“The $25 million number is really the exciting part of this announcement, in that there was a real confirmation of the support they’re bringing to the table for this project,” Shanken said. “It’s fantastic, just fantastic.”

Shanken, who’s worked for the federation since 2013, said this project has been one of its top priorities since he’s been there.

In addition to $50 million from the federal and provincial governments, another $50 million has been raised by philanthropists, including the Diamond Foundation. The goal is to get an additional $100 million through private donors.

“We’re still pushing along with the private side,” said Shanken. “Look, if anybody wants to donate to a project in Vancouver, we’ll take it.”

The project is divided in two phases. The first is building a new JCC, which will be double the size of the existing building. The new building will be built where the parking lot currently sits to ensure no disruption to the JCC’s programming.

The second phase will involve the building of the new King David High School and two towers of housing, which will provide somewhere between 500 and 700 rental units, with a “fair amount” below market value “for those in need,” Shanken said.

He estimates the entire project will be completed by 2030.

Shanken said the project, which he described as “building an ecosystem,” fits with the City of Vancouver’s densification goals.

“We’re going to have a lot more people here and we want to kind of create the arteries of the body leading into the beating heart,” he said. “We’re kind of pushing people into this incredible hub of life here that’s covering cradle to grave everybody’s needs.”