Trading 8 acres for 136

We have two or three would-be magicians on Richmond council. Magicians distract attention so we don’t notice what they’re really up to. For sleight of hand, a lottery-prize figure like $59.17 million can draw attention like a bright flame.

Could the price for the Garden City Lands have been lower? Yes, and that’s important. And there’ll be a time to analyze it, including the role of magicians who probably did more than anyone to cause what they criticize. But we’re missing what the magicians want us to miss. Worse, we’re letting them make us unhappy, not even enjoying a special moment in Richmond history.

To appreciate what we’re missing, let’s go back to 1962 when Richmond council made a bold purchase, the  548-acre Brighouse Estates at less than $2,650 an acre. Forty-five years later, council sold a remnant of that green space at about $7,600,000 an acre and put the proceeds in the Community Legacy and Land Replacement Reserve.

Who could imagine a more fitting community legacy from that fund than the Garden City Lands, an ALR green space for agricultural, ecological, and open-land park uses for community wellness? Incredibly and wonderfully, the whole purchase price for the whole lands, more than 136 acres of green space in the Richmond City Centre, has come to us from the proceeds from the sale of less than 8 acres of a remnant of the Brighouse Estates. Turning less than 8 acres into more than 136 acres sounds like an illusion, but it’s reality. I realize that businesslike councillors may not have magicians’ slickness, but surely they’ve earned more cheers than boos.

Let’s put aside artificial magic for a little while and enjoy the natural magic of the Garden City Lands, a legacy from that visionary Richmond community of 45 years ago. Perhaps we could even look ahead another 45 years to the far more crowded Richmond of 2055, where people enjoying the harmony and abundance of the Garden City Lands will give thanks for the legacy from us.

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