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Split North Van council approves new Harry Jerome rec centre design

50-metre pool, curling rink and second gymnasium are cut during project redesign to trim $50M in costs

City of North Vancouver has approved plans for the rebuild of the Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre – again.

A divided council gave their blessing to a pared down rec facility Monday night with an estimated budget of $181 million.

The design up for approval by council features an NHL-sized ice rink with seating for up to 500 spectators, one gymnasium, multi-purpose rooms and arts space, a youth area and preschool, a community kitchen and cafe, a 25-metre pool, hot tub and leisure pool, and fitness centre with sauna and steam room. Recognizing the desire for fun, the designers included a corkscrew slide option for getting from the second floor down to the lobby.

Outside, there will be a new skate park, playground, green space, sports courts and central plaza, all on top of 270 parking spaces.

Not included is the 50-metre pool, second gymnasium or curling rink included in the more grandiose $237-million project approved by the previous council in 2018 and subsequently halted to find cost savings in 2019. The city intends to fund construction almost entirely through long-term lease and residential density on the surrounding neighbourhood lands.

Virtually every member or council praised the beauty of HCMA Architecture’s designs, which orient the timber and glass buildings toward the mountains with plenty of open space.

But the vote to move ahead with the community’s new premier rec centre narrowly passed 4-3. The debate was largely around whether the list of amenities measured up to the old one and whether it will meet the community’s needs as the city grows.

Coun. Angela Girard said she appreciated the something-for-everyone philosophy that went into the final layout.

“I think this proposed redesign of Harry Jerome is beautiful and it's impactful,” she said. “I think it provides a great mix of recreational components that will well serve and support our residents with the flexibility to re-purpose as needed in the future.”

Coun. Don Bell said staff did a good job fitting the city’s must-haves into a design with a smaller budget. But he lamented the loss of the curling rink, second gym and 50-metre pool.

“I just don't think it's big enough. … We've got virtually the same cost, because of the two and a half years of delay, and less facility.” he said. “The building is going to be designed to last 50 to 70 years, we’ve heard tonight, and yet we're basically not planning for more than a few years out into the future, if at all, in terms of growth of our community.”

Those concerns were echoed by Coun. Tony Valente.

“I don't feel this project takes the 50- to 70-year vision needed for a once-in-a-generation project,” he said “And for what's becoming an increasingly limited savings today, people will pay more in the future.”

Coun Jessica McIlroy said the new Harry Jerome, and what’s included in it, has to be evaluated in the context of everything else the city provides for recreation.

“There's an immense amount of amenities across the city both indoor in our rec facilities but also in our parks and public spaces, and this is just one of the pieces of that bigger network,” she said. “There will be future opportunities for adding to that network and amenities that maybe people were hoping to see in this facility.”

Coun. Holly Back, however, said she couldn’t support the lesser community centre.

“For $181 million, I don't think we're getting a whole lot more,” she said. “Honestly, I have to say I'm really disappointed that I'm voting on this project once again, because I was so happy and so excited with what our former council had already passed, and then got denied.”

Coun. Tina Hu warned any further delays would only add to the cost.

“This project is definitely a result of years of planning and consultation and staff’s work,” she said. “We need to move forward with the new centre. As we all know, the costs are going up, and especially with the impact of COVID. I'm actually looking forward to the future process and the new recreation centre in 2025.”

Mayor Linda Buchanan acknowledged the community centre up for a vote wasn’t the one some city residents and athletes wanted to see, but she said she was assured will be a catalyst for a healthier North Vancouver long into the future.

“The road to this point of Harry Jerome has been extremely long – 22 years in the making – and it hasn't always been straight and sometimes it's been a little bumpy,” she said. “This will be a centre that is safe, healthy, and inclusive, thinking about all stages of life. This is a building that will do its part to tackle climate change and protect the environment. It's a centre that will support recreation, sport, culture and heritage. And this is a centre that fits a budget, which we can afford, and allows us to deliver on much-needed infrastructure within the city.”

The vote to move ahead with the new design passed with Buchanan, Hu, Girard and McIlroy in favour and Back, Bell and Valente opposed.

Between now and January 2022, the city will do prep work for the project before receiving one final cost estimate and issuing contracts next spring. Council expects construction to start in June 2022 and last until 2025.

The existing Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre is slated to close at the end of this year.