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Meeting hears options for rec centre

Seniors want Silver Harbour open during Harry Jerome rebuild

THE City of North Vancouver has narrowed its options down to three for a badly needed rebuild of the Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre and surrounding public lands.

The city held an open house at the Silver Harbour Seniors' Activity Centre Wednesday night to brief the public on the options, answer questions and listen to ideas from attendees.

The new complex will feature the existing ice rink and a refurbished Mickey McDougall rec centre, a new seniors' centre, aquatics facility, multi-purpose and administrative space, a new elevated playing field with parking underneath and a possible new home for Flicka Gymnastics and, very likely, condo buildings. The city's options A, B and C, each offer differing layouts, costs and construction schedules.

While there wasn't a runaway favourite option at Wednesday's meeting, there were a number of prevailing opinions. Among the most oft-repeated by attendees, who were almost exclusively seniors and members of Silver Harbour Centre, is that the seniors' needs must be met.

"Something that . . . is a priority for Silver Harbour is not to close our building during the process of reconstruction," said Annwen Loverin, executive director of Silver Harbour. "We have many people who rely on Silver Harbour as a lifeline. We have many active seniors here as well as vulnerable seniors and we feel that the programs and services we provide are health-giving and life-giving."

For that, option B would be most ideal, as it would allow most of the buildings to stay open and offer services while their replacements are built, according to Richard White, deputy city manager.

Others stressed the need for adding more space to the seniors' centre, which is expected to share space with other groups within the overall facility.

"We're really jammed here. We're turning people away. Our courses are completely booked and we have an aging population," one woman said.

Pool users urged the city to include a 50metre pool instead of the 25-metre one originally planned.

"I'm a swimmer. I've been to so many different pools outside of North Van that I see that pools in North Van suck," said the only youngster to approach the mic, drawing laughs and applause from the crowd.

Other pool users noted the city is missing out on hosting large scale swim meets, which are lucrative for local businesses, by going with a 25metre pool.

Council has a ballpark cost estimate for the facilities of around $70 million, and the city is hoping to offset about 50 per cent of the cost by allowing residential development either above the recreation buildings, or in separate towers located on the grounds between Lonsdale Avenue and St. George's Avenue. To generate that revenue would require about 350,000 square feet of condos. The city was able to build its new library without going to taxpayers by trading its construction for density for developers.

Still, several at the meeting urged council to go ahead with rebuilding Harry Jerome but without the dense development entirely.

"It's easy enough to get drunk on developer dollars. It's happening too much all over the Lower Mainland," said one nearby resident.

Council does have some money set aside in reserves, which offers some flexibility to funding a new Harry Jerome, but not nearly enough to fund the whole project, White said.

Since the city began collecting feedback on the options earlier in the fall, about 400 surveys have come in, with options A and B being the most preferred so far.

Council will continue taking the surveys and feedback on the city website at until Monday. Staff will report back to council in the new year with a summary of the feedback and options for future steps. If all goes well, construction on a new Harry Jerome Centre could begin within two to five years, White said.

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