NL

Virginia Park Community Centre to shut down for assessment, services to change locations

The Virginia Park Community Centre will be shutting down on Dec. 22 because the building needs to be assessed for renovations, but the centre’s programming will continue at nearby community locations in the new year. 

Building constructed in the 1940s and needs to be assessed for renovations

The exterior of a community centre. The front door and two windows and a sign overhead.
The Virginia Park Community Centre on Harding Road in St. John's serves about 100 people in the community, says board chair Ron Ellsworth. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

The Virginia Park Community Centre in the east end of St. John's will be shutting down on Dec. 22 so the building can to be assessed for renovations, but the centre's programming will continue at nearby community locations in the new year. 

"This building was built back in 1942. It's certainly outlived its usefulness at this point, " said Ron Ellsworth, chair of the community centre's board. 

"There's some preliminary work been done, but at this point we're actually in the way of the Housing Corp. doing the rest of the work. We got to open up some walls, the floors got to be opened up, we really got to do a detailed look at the structure," said Ellsworth.

While that work happens, the community centre's main offices will move into space owned by Academy Canada, two doors down the street on Harding Road. Youth programs will operate out of East Point Elementary on Middleton Street, which is just around the corner, and seniors' programs will move to St. Mark's Anglican Church on Logy Bay Road. 

Ellsworth said the centre serves about 100 people in the community. In addition to youth and seniors' programming, it offers a food pantry, sewing, resumé writing, computer access and help for new Canadians. 

a map with three locations highlighted on it.
Locations where services will be reloacted while the Virgina Park Community Centre is closed to be assessed and possibly renovated. (Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation)

He estimates it will take two to three months for crews to assess the building for problems.

"We are a slab-on-grade building and we are downhill from the property behind us, so we do get some water penetration," Ellsworth said. 

"Eight or nine years ago there was a major flood here with water coming in, so we do have some concerns around that. We were getting some smell in the building, so very proactively there was an air quality test done to make sure there was no health issues, which was cleared," he said. 

Meanwhile, Ellsworth is praising the centre's neighbour, Academy Canada, for offering them some temporary accommodation.

"The email went out, and like five minutes later we had a response," said Ellsworth. "They're actually shifting some of their programs from one building to another to give us access."

WATCH | Closing the Virginia Park Community Centre doesn't mean an end to the programs:

Renovation eyed for St. John’s community hub, with Virginia Park programs to continue off-site

6 months ago
Duration 0:38
Three different buildings will play temporary home to the different programs offered through the Virginia Park Community Centre. The Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. wants to do a full overview to see what renovations are needed at the building and so it will temporarily close starting Friday, Dec. 22. Ron Ellsworth, who chairs the community centre’s board, says it is crucial the programs continue, since residents have come to count on them for more than 35 years.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation owns the facility and many other community centres in the province. Housing Minister Paul Pike said all options are on the table if the building needs to be torn down and replaced, rather than renovated. 

"We're going to have to cut programs immediately, but we have community partners in place and there should not be a major disruption," said Pike.

Bernard Davis, the area's MHA, said he's happy the centre has found a solution that keeps services nearby while the building's future is being assessed. 

Programming is expected to restart at the temporary locations on Jan. 8.

Download our free CBC News app to sign up for push alerts for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador. Click here to visit our landing page.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Heather Gillis

Journalist

Heather Gillis is a journalist based in St. John's. She has been working at CBC NL since March 2020, but has been reporting in Newfoundland and Labrador since 2011. Heather has a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College and a bachelor of arts from Memorial University. You can reach her by email at Heather.Gillis@cbc.ca