City of North Van may scale back Harry Jerome plans

City of North Vancouver council may soon be scrapping plans for a 50-metre pool, curling sheets and rooftop sports courts at the new Harry Jerome Recreation Centre in order to save money.

The previous city council approved the $210-million, 256,433-square-foot complex with all the bells and whistles in 2018, but early in the new council’s term, Mayor Linda Buchanan won support for a motion directing the city to delay issuing construction contracts until council had a chance to consider cheaper alternatives and financial risk mitigation measures.

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City staff reported back on those measures Monday night. By swapping out the 50-metre pool with a 10-lane, 26.5-metre one, staff estimate it will save $4.6 million in construction costs and reduce the operating costs by between $200,000 and $1 million per year. By eliminating the curling rink and using the space for surface parking – thereby shrinking down the size of the parkade, the city would be saving $17.7 in construction costs and $150,000 to $200,000 per year in operating costs, according to staff. Removing rooftop sports courts and a walking track would save another $3 million from the total cost. Staff are also recommending that council reduce the size of one of the buildings from three storeys to two and cut back on the amount of glass curtain wall used in construction, saving another $2.3 million.

If council were to follow through on the smaller rec centre design option, staff estimate it would reduce the cost by $ 27.4 million, lowering the final estimated bill to $185.3 million.

To help offset the risks, staff are recommending the city hire an outside project management firm to oversee the project’s construction and establish a citizens committee for further oversight. Council may also consider pay parking for the new Harry Jerome and closing the existing facility early to save money, staff noted in their report.

Before hearing a presentation from staff and beginning to debate, however, council voted defer the discussion until the next full meeting of council on April 1.

But user groups who could find themselves shut out of the new facility or forced to use lesser facilities are gearing up to fight for their amenities once again.

Curlers turned up to the meeting dressed in red, and pleading with council not to shut North Vancouver residents out of an inexpensive and accessible sport.

Curler Linda Heese noted the original Harry Jerome was a place for bonspiels and buttons.

“Why would we rebuild less than what we had? There are many other ways to reduce some costs. Please do not eliminate this terrific family sport,” she said.

North Shore Masters Swim Team veteran Claire Booth reminded council the public hearing held prior to the rezoning for Harry Jerome was done on the premise of a 50-metre pool and that it would be unfair to make drastic changes this late in the process.

“In fact, the city will erode public trust if it goes forward with this major change,” she said. “I urge you not to undo all the work that has been done on the much needed 50-metre pool.”

The North Shore Aquatics Society also urged council to think about the future needs of the city before stunting the growth of its premier rec centre.

“I want to emphasize to council the decision that’s made today – and it’s a 50 to 60-year decision – is not about us. We’re not going to be here to see the benefits of this facility. We have to remember our kids… who this decision really impacts,” said the group’s treasurer Vicki McLeod.

The city staff report on mitigating costs made no mention of the $183 million the city is expected to reap from developer Darwin Properties, which has signed a long-term lease for more than 800 units in one 30-storey tower and one 26-storey tower in addition to three six-storey buildings and one five-storey building between 21st and 23rd streets along Lonsdale Avenue.

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