Earlier this week, the City of North Vancouver approved a new landmark aquatic and recreational centre that will effectively replace the existing Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre (HJCRC).
The $237-million project, largely funded by a single property developer through a land lease agreement over the long-term, entails redeveloping the city block – just north of the existing HJCRC – that is currently occupied by Centennial Theatre, Norseman Park, Lonsdale Skate Park, and ground level parking. The sites are located at the intersection of the 23rd Street East and Lonsdale Avenue.
City Council’s narrow 4-3 vote of approval enables staff to proceed to detailed design work and procurement.
Early framework concepts created by HMCA Architecture + Design entails a design with large overhanging forms and boxes, built to a superior sustainable standard.
There will be an aquatic centre with a 50-metre length pool and a leisure pool, gymnasium, single NHL-sized ice rink with 500 spectator seats, curling rink with six sheets, seniors’ centre, multipurpose rooms, children’s area, youth centre, skateboard plaza that is partially covered, and about 80 units of social housing.
Additionally, ample large indoor circulation spaces for casual socialization and recreation and views to green inner courtyards through impressive floor-to-ceiling windows enhance the communal spaces.
Wood is extensively used for the underside of the cantilevered spaces and ceilings of main circulation spaces.
A main entrance plaza accessed from 23rd Street East “can be compared to a clearing in the trees.”
Altogether, the total floor area of this recreational complex spans over 230,000-sq-ft within five levels, including one-and-a-half underground level with 600 vehicle parking spaces. Centennial Theatre on the southwest corner of the site will remain and be integrated with the new complex.
Other elements of the project include a new replacement lawn bowling club and greens at the Mickey McDougall site as the replacement facility for North Vancouver Lawn Bowling Club.
This new recreation centre project involves local developer Darwin Properties, as it depends on their 99-year lease of the existing City-owned HJCRC property, which will be redeveloped into about 800 rental homes and over 21,000-sq-ft of retail space. Lease revenues will generate $210 million to construct the facilities and public spaces at the new HJCRC and within the adjacent residential development.
But the potential financial risk of the project was too high for Mayor Darrell Mussatto and City Councillors Linda Buchanan and Craig Keating.
To kick-start construction, the municipal government estimates it will need to borrow $110 million, and given the size and scope of the project it puts the project at risk of significant cost overruns.
Those opposed in City Council argued that while it supports the recreational needs of the entire North Shore population, particularly the City of North Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver, only the City of North Vancouver is bearing the cost and risk of not only construction but also the long-term operational cost over the building’s lifespan.
“I think that to start there is nobody in this room that doesn’t want to see a new Harry Jerome. I think we are equally passionate in what we want to see there. But then there’s passion and there is reality and complete cost implications for our community,” said Buchanan.
She also warned that if anything “goes wrong” there will be a significant property tax increase within the municipality.
“What is the maximum amount we are prepared to pay? It’s almost a quarter-of-a-billion dollars for a city of 55,000 people.”
“I cannot in good faith move this forward as currently proposed. Right now this is far more than what anyone imagined and I think we need to take a very sobering look at what is on the table and what we are prepared to move forward with. It’s very exciting to have a new community centre with everything, but not at any cost.”
While the construction of the new HJCRC could begin in 2020 for an opening in 2023, it is likely the project will become an issue for the upcoming October civic election.