THE City of North Vancouver is inching forward with plans for a new Harry Jerome Recreation Centre but just what it will look like and how it will be paid for aren't clear.
While plans for rebuilding the weathered facility are still in their infancy, council got the discussion rolling Monday night, reviewing a staff recommendation for a general layout of the lands, recreation buildings and residences between 21st Street and the Trans-Canada Highway.
During community consultations throughout the fall of 2012, "Option B" proved most popular of three potential designs, with 63 per cent of respondents to a city questionnaire in favour.
Under Option B, the existing arena on the south side of 23rd Street will be connected with a building that bridges the street and houses administrative space and a new Silver Harbour Seniors' Activity Centre. The north side of 23rd would feature a 25-metre pool, gymnasiums and a full-size Norseman playing field with parking underneath.
Council has directed staff to include roughly 350,000 square feet of residential development in the plan to help offset about half of the $70 million the facility is expected to cost, similar to how the city funded its new library and municipal hall.
For that, Option B includes two 180-foot residential towers between Lonsdale and Eastern Avenue south of the arena and another five-storey building along St. Georges Avenue. The rest of the money would come from city reserves and borrowing.
The seniors' centre would remain open while its new operating space within a revamped Harry Jerome is completed - something listed as a priority by seniors who attended a public meeting in November.
Council members stopped short of voting to send Option B forward as only five of the seven council members were present for the discussion. Coun. Don Bell was away sick and Mayor Darrell Mussatto was out of town. Council is expected to take up the matter again at the first meeting with all seven members present.
But the plan for residential towers, possibly 18 storeys or higher, at 23rd and Lonsdale isn't sitting well with some on council.
The city has witnessed a hugely difficult public process for the Onni development at Lonsdale and 13th, Coun. Craig Keating noted, and that site is planned for highrises and high density in the official community plan.
"What has not been called for is this kind of height and density at 23rd and Lonsdale," Keating said, referring to a previous plan for central Lonsdale that rejected highrises north of 17th. "We specifically excluded that in terms of the kind of height we're talking about, and to introduce it this way without a broader urban planning vision of how this will fit into the neighbourhood, I think it's quite challenging."
The delay in a final decision has bought some time for pool users who have been lobbying the City and District of North Vancouver to change the plans to include a 50-metre pool that would accommodate more users and be suitable for competition-level swim meets.
But district council rejected contributing to either the construction of a bigger pool, or the higher operating costs when it is about to begin work redoing the William Griffin Recreation Centre pool just two kilometres away within the district.
The newly incorporated North Shore Aquatics Society appeared at Monday's meeting, urging council to put off any final decisions about pool size until the summer to give the group time to apply for federal and provincial grants and seek corporate donors to help offset costs of a bigger pool.
Barring any catastrophic technical problems, the city plans to keep the existing pool open until the William Griffin pool is completed within three years.
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