LETTER: Mulling over pros and cons of this community centre project

Dear Editor:

Community centre plan pros: 

It would bring to fruition a long desired facility. The first serious design came forward in 1992 (Don Nicolson) at 14,000 sq feet and $4.8 million. A referendum narrowly failed in 1997 for a modest ‘starter hall,’ approximately 3,500 sq feet and $650,000. 

The stars are aligned with senior government support to the tune of $7.9 million. This is highly unlikely to happen again in a good long while.

It centralizes municipal, social, performance, assembly and activity functions under one roof adjacent to the community school. 

It expands cultural and recreational programming while providing a genuine community hub.

The synergy of all these things. We can only imagine now the things that may happen in a new space, but undoubtedly we will be delighted by the possibilities turned into realities. What community do you know of that does not have a community centre, per se?

Community centre plan cons:

Cost uncertainty: while there is a large contingency budget, these kinds of projects easily get out of hand. North Vancouver City has put on hold their redevelopment of the Lonsdale facility due to ballooning costs. To that add variable mortgage rates and inevitably increasing operating costs. We currently have a very low interest rate environment but that will undoubtedly change over 30 years (even with five-year terms).

Poor BIM track record on capital projects. Two years ago, the $3 million fire hall referendum passed with 81 per cent in favour, yet the actual bids for construction came in at multiples of that (reputedly between $8 and $9 million). There has been some pencil sharpening and BIM is looking at bids coming in lower. 

The municipal hall component is unnecessary and expensive. BIM could easily have purchased the current hall for about $2 million, less than the cost of new construction, plus freeing up land for parking and future expansion. This still could happen if minds were set to it, with a portion of the construction money simply going into purchase, the rest for upgrades.

Public infrastructure can undermine private enterprise. Building a weight room and fitness studio puts BIM in unfair competition with at least two other facilities on-island. Yet these have always been high on the priority list and have been done elsewhere (eg. West Van. 22nd and Marine has a fabulous facility with heavy usage)

The site is cramped, with woefully inadequate parking and little room for future expansion. The previous 2008 design by Hotson Bakker was superior by most metrics, and sat more aesthetically on the land with no municipal hall component.

There are undoubtedly other merits and demerits. Some people dearly want a swimming pool, others have said we don’t need a performance hall (not fully understanding that the space would be highly flexible for myriad uses).

I will be supporting the project––largely because items one and two in the pro list outweigh everything else in my view. I would certainly like to see some design and program (use of space) changes.

But I hope that people will vote with full facts at front of mind, not notions or based on misinformation. At the public input sessions, ask tough questions, and keep pressure on staff and council, if the project is approved, to ensure it doesn’t go off the rails and delivers the most that can be had for the dollars spent.

 

Peter Frinton

Past municipal councillor, chair & participant in Civic Facility Task Force, working group, action committees

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