Real estate proposal calls for relocation close to the Granville Bridge
The aging, 40-year-old Vancouver Aquatic Centre on Beach Avenue could be demolished and replaced with a new facility near the Granville Bridge under a proposed real estate sale offered by the City of Vancouver.
News of the potential arrangement — still a long way from reality — caught many off guard Wednesday, even though it's contained in a city information package that has been available to potential buyers since May 12.
The city has invited offers on 12 parcels of land contained within the Granville Bridge's northeast off-ramp and loop, which will be decommissioned and removed.
The land has a total assessed value of $36.14 million and bids from potential buyers are being accepted until Aug. 15.
The city's "invitation for innovative offers" on the site notes it wants a "renewed" Vancouver Aquatic Centre on the property, to be built by a developer and transferred back to the city for a nominal fee of $10.
Nicholas Chernen, a Cedar Party council candidate in the Vancouver city elections this fall, feels there hasn't been enough community discussion on the proposed redevelopment of the site.
"Why not consult with citizens before putting something up for sale that has so many core components?" he said. "What would happen to the old Vancouver Aquatic Centre site? Does it become a park or does the city sell the land off? It's probably the crown jewel of Vancouver waterfront property now."
NPA park board commissioner John Coupar, who only heard about the potential new aquatic centre development on Wednesday, feels the city should have been more transparent about such an important issue.
"When you're dealing with such a valued amenity as the aquatic centre, you can actually create fear and uncertainty in people's mind by not being open," he said. "It's better to be open and transparent."
Vision Vancouver had been hit with similar criticism over the past year from angry residents who claimed they hadn't been properly consulted on long-term community plans for neighbourhoods like Marpole and Grandview-Woodland. The Vision-dominated city council responded to the vocal opposition by extending consultation deadlines and revamping its plans.
But Vision Vancouver park board chair Aaron Jasper said Coupar might be "stepping across the line" by casting aspersions on the latest process.
"He's speculating and electioneering, as far as I'm concerned," he said. "There is no plan to relocate (the aquatic centre) now and if there ever is an option to relocate, the park board will be briefed."
Jasper said the aquatic centre, which opened in 1974, clearly needs to be upgraded but estimates it would cost about $40 million to rebuild it on its current location and that money has not been set aside in the next four-year capital plan.
"The prospect of having to find $40 million to rebuild on site is quite a challenge so I would be open to considering any alternative," he said. "It would be silly for us not to be open to these ideas."
Bill Aujla, the city's general manager of real estate and facilities management, stressed the city is simply looking for innovative ideas from developers and is not bound to accept any offers.
No bids have been received so far but many are expected by the Aug. 15 closing date as several well known development companies have expressed a keen interest in the city land near the Granville Bridge.
Aujla said consultation among several city departments determined that a new aquatic centre would fit in well on the site, along with 120 social housing units and a 10,000-square-foot community centre.
"Parties can bid pure cash or they can try to create some innovative ideas around in-kind community amenities," he said. "We want to run a competitive bidding process to see how innovative proponents can be to bring the best value to the city."
Aujla said any possible new aquatic centre project on the site would have to go through a rezoning process and be approved by city council and the park board.
The city's information package for the site calls for an aquatic centre with a 52-metre lap pool, a fitness studio, hot tub, steam room, sauna, dive tank and men's, women's and universal change rooms.
The 120 non-market housing units and 10,000-square-foot community centre could either be located on the Granville Bridge site or on nearby downtown property.