Vancouver Aquatic Centre’s future: 2014 election issue for West Enders? Ask candidates where they stand.

Vancouver Aquatic Centre Sign

Vancouver Aquatic Centre Sign

What is the future of the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, a cherished facility in the West End? This is a good question for incumbent and hopeful candidates for Mayor, City Council, and Park Board leading up to the November 15 civic election in 2014. Incumbents should be asked what they know about this. Hopefuls should be asked what they would do if elected. (See WEN election 2014 page.)

And West Enders might also wonder this: What was the purpose of the entire community planning exercise if dramatically different ideas (not renewal but demolition and relocation) are suddenly discovered only six months after the Plan is adopted?

Throughout the multi-year consultation on the West End Community Plan (adopted by City Council in November 2013) the Aquatic Centre featured prominently as a valued community amenity. As an enticement for public support of the Plan, West End residents were led to believe that we would get upgrades to our amenities (including the Aquatic Centre) in return for the major increase in density and development that would come with the implementation of the Plan. (See our post West End Plan will spark a real estate boom here, says Business in Vancouver, June 17, 2014)

But suddenly, in August 2014, sharp citizens discovered that an obscure “request for proposals” for development of the Granville Loops area at the north end of the Granville Bridge included building a replacement for the Aquatic Center outside the West End.

It turns out to be true — the City of Vancouver and Park Board are considering demolishing the existing Vancouver Aquatic Centre. In upcoming candidates’ debates, and direct communication, we urge you to  ask candidates publicly where they stand on the future of the Aquatic Centre. Below are some relevant materials, including a press release, excerpts from the West End Community Plan, and more.

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Here is a direct quote from a media statement from November 21, 2013, when the West End Community Plan was adopted, posted on Vision Vancouver Councillor Andrea Reimer’s Facebook page:

 The Public Benefits Strategy [of the West End Community Plan] invests roughly $600 million over thirty years in new and upgraded community amenities.

“Many of the facilities in the West End are either out-of-date or at capacity,” added the Mayor [Vision Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson]. “Whether it’s upgrades to the community centre and library, the aquatic centre or ice rink, we heard clearly from the public that their favourite recreation facilities are in need of renewal. The new Community Plan reflects what we heard and will make that happen.”

The weekly Westender paper carried an article entitled “Future uncertain for Vancouver Aquatic Centre: As the swimming club turns 40 this month, the City mulls demolition.” (by Robert Mangelsdorf, 28-Oct-2014). Here are some excerpts (please go to website for full story):

  • Dozens of swimmers and community members gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Vancouver Aquatic Centre this month [October 2014], however, the future of the aging facility remains uncertain.
  • In an “invitation for innovative offers” made public in May [WEN correction: Mr. Mangelsdorf is completely wrong here and should make a correction in his paper. The “invitation” was not “made public” in May. It was quietly posted on the City’s procurement website, normally read only by contractors. It was in July that a sharp citizen noticed the documents and revealed that a demolition of the Aquatic Centre was being contemplated.], the City of Vancouver detailed a possible plan to demolish and relocate the West End swimming pool. The pool, which sits at the north end of the Burrard Street Bridge, would be moved to the site of the former Continental Hotel at the north end of the Granville Street Bridge as part of a possible residential high-rise development on the site, with developer picking up the tab.
  • Parks board chair Aaron Jasper told the Vancouver Sun in August that the pool is need of upgrades costing about $40 million and that money has not been set aside in the next four-year capital plan.
  • Given the expense of repairing the pool, Jasper said the City is “open to considering any alternative.”

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West End Community Plan as adopted:

http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/west-end-community-plan-2013-nov.pdf

The Plan (page 119) notes that renewal of the West End Community Centre and the Vancouver Aquatic Centre will cost in the range of $90-95 million, with $10 million coming from CAC’s.

Page 103…

Strategy for the Next 30 Years 
Renew recreation facilities (West End Community Centre, West End Ice Rink and Vancouver Aquatic Centre) and design them to meet anticipated population growth (estimated cost is $90 to $95 million).

Page 104 …

Ten-Year Policies
Develop a long-term strategy with the Vancouver School Board, Vancouver Public Library and other partners to renew and expand the West End Community Centre, Joe Fortes Library, and King George Secondary School, and to explore opportunities to co-locate other community facilities.
Explore opportunities to rebuild or replace the Vancouver Aquatic Centre to service the local, city and regional population.

WEN comment: Little did anyone realize that the West End Community Plan amenity package actually might mean the result for West Enders’ might actually be the demolition of the Aquatic Centre, and its replacement being built completely outside the West End community. If this is how the City works, how about the community centre, library and schools? Would the City move them out of the West End too?

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Vancouver Sun on the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, and the potential for its incorporation into a new development at the north end of the Granville Street Bridge:
The city’s information package on the site notes it would like a “renewed” Vancouver Aquatic Centre on the property, to be built by a developer and transferred back to the city for a nominal fee of $10.  The new facility would be 52 metres long, with water depths ranging from 1.2 to 3.8 metres. It would also have a fitness studio, hot tub, steam room, sauna, dive tank and men’s, women’s and universal change rooms.  The city also wants 120 non-market housing units on the site, along with a 10,000-square-foot community centre, which could be located on other land in the West End.
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Official website for Vancouver Aquatic Centre:

http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/vancouver-aquatic-centre.aspx

West End Community Plan  (Adopted by City Council)

http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20131120/documents/AppendixA.pdf

City’s website for the West End Community Plan

www.vancouver.ca/westendplan

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