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A Vancouver architect wants to build a spa in Stanley Park's abandoned polar bear enclosure

When the last of the Stanley Park polar bears died in 1997, their large concrete pools and enclosures near the aquarium were abandoned and haven’t been touched since.

But a Vancouver architect has big plans for the structures. Tony Osborn with Tony Osborn Architecture and Design has designed a Scandanavian-style outdoor spa that he believes would be the perfect way to invite people back to the dilapidated space.

“What better way to than to actually invite people to swim in those pools where some of us can remember polar bears actually swimming,” said Osborn.

He submitted his renderings and design plans to Vancouver’s park board commissioners. And at least one of them loves the idea.

“I thought it’s was fantastic! I thought what a creative thoughtful idea to enhance the public life for all of us through opportunities in Stanley Park,” said Park Board commissioner Tom Digby.

He acknowledges building anything in Stanley Park is challenging, let alone an attraction as large and complex as an outdoor spa that incorporates aging concrete structures that haven’t been used in decades.

“The first thing that came to my mind is, well, how will First Nations feel about it? Because Stanley Park is entirely co-managed with the First Nations now,” said Digby.

Osborn believes it is possible to get everyone on board.

“The time is quite good for something to happen here, because in January of this year the park board passed a motion to look for new sources of revenue in all of its spaces, but especially in Stanley Park,” said Osborn.

The next step is a feasibility study if the Park Board and local First Nations are open to exploring the idea. “So definitely some investigation would be done of the current site to determine what would be required for the site to be inhabited in this way,” said Osborn.

Digby is on board. “This has the scale and the size that really suits the city so I definitely want to see this pushed forward,” he said

Still, Osborn knows many people are skeptical. His response to those who can’t imagine a Nordic spa in the middle of Stanley Park?

“I think it’s important for people not to be too pessimistic about the possibilities of things,” Osborn said. “Some things have to come into existence, and it might as well be something as amazing and cool as a sauna where the polar bear enclosure used to be.” Top Stories

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