Millions of dollars in federal and provincial funding could be lost as local neighbourhood groups look at yet another potential spot for the new Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre, this time vying for the property at 1952 Quadra St., the site of the Victoria Curling Club and parking for the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena.
The North Park Neighbourhood Association (NPNA) and the Victoria Downtown Resident’s Association (DVRA) worked with city staff after an Oct. 4 resolution to analyze four alternative sites for the new facility after residents complained of too little consultation on the project.
The four sites included the pool’s current location, a new location at the south-west corner of Central Park, the parking lot near Royal Athletic Park, and the lot occupied by the Victoria Curling Club.
Of the four options, the NPNA and the DVRA found the Victoria Curling Club and Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena site to be the most favourable.
“The arena site would allow for the facility to be retained along a major arterial and bus route and nearby cycling network, and would avoid interruption of pool use while eliminating the proposed disruption to park users during multi-year construction,” said the NPNA and the DVRA in a letter to mayor and council. “Disruption to curling club users could be mitigated by reactivating one of the two recently decommissioned regional rinks during construction.”
The letter also argues that the arena site would allow for more community services and facilities, including housing, childcare, underground parking and seniors centres. This move would also help sustain greenspace in the area, which was identified as a priority in the Official Community Plan.
However, reassessing the four different sites could mean forsaking the first year of potential funding from the federal-provincial Investing in Canada’s Plan, a 10-year fund that could cover up to 72 per cent of the project’s estimated $69.4 million price tag.
“I think that’s probably going to be compromised. If we go with exploring a new option, we’re not going to make a deadline for federal-provincial funding for Jan. 23, so that’s something we’ll have to grapple with,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
“I really do think we need to narrow our focus, we need to say ‘okay, we’re either gonna build it where we propose to build it or we’re gonna build it at the Memorial Arena parking lot. I think if we’re running off madly in all directions that’s not good, so my hope on Thursday is to really focus the council’s efforts.”
At this Thursday’s council meeting, the proposition will be met with the city’s director of parks, recreation and facilities, Thomas Soulliere’s, two recommendations to council.
The first would have city staff do a comprehensive analysis on the four sites to compare the costs of moving the site and amending the project plan. This would cost $200,000, which would come from the buildings and infrastructure reserve, and risk losing the first year of funding.
The second option would be to go ahead with the completion of the original plan in the south-west corner of Central Park.
So far, the city has already spent approximately $2 million on planning for the pool’s replacement.
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