B.C. Hydro has paid the Vancouver Park Board $8 million to use sections of Nelson Park, in the city's West End, as they look to build an underground substation starting in 2024.
The utility had requested the park board for a right-of-way section in the park so they could build underground power lines, as well as driveway access, to provide access to the eventual substation.
The project, which will be called the West End Substation, will be built under the site of the Lord Roberts Annex elementary school — a move approved by the Vancouver School Board back in 2018 despite some resident outcry.
The school is set to be demolished, with the students temporarily moved to a new school in Coal Harbour. Eventually, a new school will be built at the Nelson Park site, but that won't be until 2029 according to current plans.
"The rights of way access in Nelson Park is an important component for a new underground substation in the West End that will serve the downtown core for generations to come," said Chris O'Riley, CEO of B.C. Hydro, in a statement.
The utility says the new substation is needed to keep up with increasing power demands in Vancouver's downtown core, and that the existing 70-year-old Dal Grauer Substation had "aging" infrastructure that needed refurbishment.
The Park Board says it will use the $8 million compensation to improve parks in the West End, a densely populated section of the city in the downtown peninsula.
"Nelson Park provides critical access to nature for West End residents and is a space used for health, wellness and leisure," the board said in a statement.
"There are currently 20,000 residents living within a 10-minute walk of Nelson Park and the population of the West End is expected to grow by 30,000 over the next 30 years."
B.C. Hydro noted in its statement that the underground power line construction at the park will happen "over one or two winter months," when the annual West End Farmers Market is not being held.
Their plans for the substation also include a playing field in the park, and space for the new school. Construction is set to begin in the middle of 2024, after the new Coal Harbour school is constructed.
"Our substation construction is expected to take five years, with approximately three of those years involving excavation and visible active construction, similar to the construction of a large condo tower," the utility says on its website.
After the initial construction, B.C. Hydro says most of the construction activity will take place underground and be less noticeable to park users.