August 26, 2022

Most Vulnerable at George Pearson Centre are Pawns in Onni Developer Spat with City

Viewpoint Vancouver has written before about George Pearson Centre  (GPC) at 650 West 57th Avenue that houses some of the most vulnerable people in 114 long term beds.  All residents use power or wheelchairs, and many require assistance for even basic needs, like sitting up or getting out of bed. This is a 70 year old facility that used to be a tuberculosis hospital. The setup and the management of this facility has a troubling history fraught with challenges.

The residents of George Pearson Centre were severely impacted by Covid restrictions and many rely on family to assist with their most basic needs.Activist Paul Caune has drawn attention to this issue, and shared the stories of people whose quality of life and opportunity to have even the most basic interaction with caregivers, families and friends cut off due to facility precautions over the  Covid pandemic.

Activist Paul Caune

Journalist Daphne Bramham has written about issues for residents in George Pearson Centre that were evident even before the Covid epidemic.

There was some good news though, that some of the residents of this facility were going to be able to go to new homes planned for them in Cambie Gardens at 788 West 57th Avenue, an Onni development. (Onni bought the   George Pearson Centre site from Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and is redeveloping it in several phases).

While 44 residents were originally scheduled to move to their new home in the Spring, this was delayed to June when occupancy permits were approved for the units. Still no move and no information in August.

Here we are almost three months later, and the residents (some who have unfortunately passed away waiting) have still not heard when they can move in. In the interim, staff at George Pearson Centre is being cut back because the move out of the facility was anticipated in June. That also means that Vancouver Coastal Health Authority is paying for retaining specialized staff for the 44 residents that were supposed to be in the Onni development at Cambie Gardens three months ago.

You can imagine how frustrating this is to families and to the residents who are currently in a facility that is not air conditioned, has little privacy and has had continued difficulties with staffing.

But the most frustrating thing is the reason why these vulnerable residents have not been moved to a new environment and a new start. The reason? The developer of Cambie Gardens, Onni which calls itself on its website “The premier real estate developer” is using these most vulnerable patients as pawns with the City of  Vancouver.

In a letter dated August 22, 2022, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority wrote “As you know, the original plan was for the first group of 44 GPC residents to move into their new supported housing units at Cambie Gardens in early June. The units are ready for occupancy; however Onni, the developer, will not provide access to these completed units prior to settling outstanding issues with the City of Vancouver regarding the neighbourhood utility-something that is completely outside of Vancouver Coastal Health’s control.

To make matters worse, now it appears that this legal spat about the Neighbourhood Utility will mean residents cannot move in until 2023. This is between the City and the developer, not the residents. And these residents cannot go out and demonstrate as able bodied people would.

For residents who drew lots to see who would be lucky enough to be the first to leave George Pearson Centre that is untenable.

We are judged by how we treat and respect the most vulnerable in our society-using these residents who could live their final days in a new place with a new start as pawns in a legal disagreement is not acceptable.

This is not equity.

We as a society need to demand better of our developers and of our city.  Get those residents into their new home, work out your legal agreement without the most compromised as pawns.

You can listen to this clip from CBC Radio’s Stephen Quinn which outlines the issues, and includes a conversation with the sister of one of the residents that explains how dire the situation is, and why these residents need to be moved now.





Posted in


If you love this region and have a view to its future please subscribe, donate, or become a Patron.

Share on


  1. Another sellout by VCH. Even DWV bought their land on Gordon Ave and developing affordable housing. No subway station at 57thAve and Cambie. Public land should never be sold.

  2. How about getting a bus, taking 10 wheelchair bound residents to the front of Onni’s office downtown, call the press and Mayoral candidates, and the problem will be solved in 24 hours.

    1. Post
  3. How appalling and sad that the innocent residents (and their families) of George Pearson Centre are ultimately embroiled in this spat when it has nothing to do with them. It would be different if Onni had a family member living at GPC.
    Was GPC the initial Children’s Hospital before its current location on Oak?

  4. There are also over 130 units of low income housing waiting to be occupied.

    All delayed because greedy Onni wants more money on a heating supply contract that should be taken to the BC utilities commission as grossly unfair and no where near ‘affordable’ .

    If it doesn’t make the city bankrupt, it certainly will impact the people living in the building. I can’t imagine the people who bought private condo units in there have any idea how much they are getting ripped off with over priced utility agreements. Someone should ask the City of Vancouver via freedom of information, requesting copies of housing contracts, heating utility agreements, and copies of unit inspection reports for the Vancouver Coastal Health Units, the affordable housing units versus the public strata market units. Onni’s build quality leaves one to wonder how they can possible classify themselves as a premier real estate developer.

    Here is to hoping that the City of Vancouver learns it’s lessons and will not cooperate with developers that are not helping the community.

    Let’s be honest, Onni caved because they were being taken to court by Vancouver Coastal Health, a provincial body. If that hadn’t occurred, they would continue impacting low income housing needs and those with disabilities, just to make a buck.

    Shameful, absolutely shameful. Don’t buy Onni. Put them out of business. (not that they care, they are now so filthy rich off the backs of hardworking people….)

Subscribe to Viewpoint Vancouver

Get breaking news and fresh views, direct to your inbox.

Join 7,291 other subscribers

Show your Support

Check our Patreon page for stylish coffee mugs, private city tours, and more – or, make a one-time or recurring donation. Thank you for helping shape this place we love.

Popular Articles

See All

All Articles