A former public health nurse in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has made a personal donation of $3.8 million towards a social housing and healthcare centre complex currently under construction in the area.
As a gesture of appreciation, the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation (VCF) and the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation are looking to name the integrated community healthcare facility within the lower levels of the department after the donor, philanthropist Lily Lee.
Construction on the 10-storey building on the large City-owned mid-block site of 58 West Hastings Street — between Abbott and Carrall streets — first began in 2021. The upper seven levels will contain 230 homes for individuals experiencing homelessness and low-income families, including 120 supportive housing units and 180 below-market rental units. According to VCF, this will be the single largest social housing building in the Downtown Eastside.
United Chinese Community Enrichment Services Society, the non-profit organization best known as SUCCESS, will operate the housing and be responsible for selecting residents.
The Lily Lee Community Health Centre Hastings will be located within the building’s lower levels, spanning 50,000 sq ft of floor area below the housing. It will be operated by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), offering services including specialized mental health and addictions treatment.
There will also be some retail/restaurant uses on the ground level to activate the building’s prominent street frontage.
“After my graduation from the School of Nursing at UBC, my early days of working as a public health nurse in Strathcona created my passion for community health care. I believe this new health centre will have a tremendous impact in these unique neighbourhoods, and I am so happy to put my support behind it,” said Lily, who is the mother of Carol Lee, the chair of the VCF, which is the non-profit organization leading the effort to build the project. The donation was formally announced earlier this week in a fundraising event.
Thank you Lily Lee for your leadership and transformative gift to 58 West Hastings and helping raise more than $6.3 million and counting for @chinatownfoundation #AutumnGala presented by @rbc #buildingcommunity #betterdaysahead👏👏👏❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/8HB4j3bQzY
— Fred Lee (@FredAboutTown) November 3, 2022
Carol added: “With the generosity of my mother, Lily, and in combination with support from multiple levels of government, this is an important moment for the Chinatown Foundation as we work to revitalize these neighbourhoods. And that starts with the health of the residents of these communities.”
The entire social housing and integrated healthcare centre is expected to reach completion and open in 2024. The federal and provincial governments provided a combined $80 million to the project, and VCF is expected to commit $30 million through fundraising.
The healthcare facility’s name after Lily requires final approval by the provincial government and VCH.
Lily was the wife of the late Robert Lee, a local real estate developer. Their family’s donation of $5 million to the UBC Sauder School of Business in 2006 led to the name of Robert H. Lee Graduate School within the faculty.