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The Aquatic Centre: Vision Vancouver Tries To Pull a Fast One

Vancouver Aquatic Centre is Due for Demolition in Sale of City Land
The entire Downtown South Development Site booklet may be accessed by clicking here

On Wednesday, VanRamblings published a story on the proposed sale by Vision Vancouver of 12 parcels of land adjacent to the Granville Street bridge, for the development of 120 units of social housing, a new Aquatic Centre, and a new Qmunity Centre — all without any hint of an open, public consultation by Vancouver's secretive, developer-friendly municipal Council.

In today's VanRamblings column, we'll provide a timeline of events that occurred on Wednesday, in which we sought clarification of the issues raised in yesterday's harrowing Aquatic Centre To Be Demolished post.

Update: VanRamblings learned on Thursday of the City's Request for Proposal to demolish the Continental Hotel, the RFP closing next Wednesday, August 6th. Why the undue haste by the City in respect of the development of the 12 parcels of city-owned land being offered up? Once the hotel has been demolished, the road is clear for the City to move quickly on their 'non-market' housing (always amorphous as to what that means, when it comes to Vision Vancouver) / Aquatic Centre development.

The Vancouver Cedar Party issued a press release Thursday afternoon which asks some very important questions on the issue of the replacement of the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, none of which have been answered to date by the majority party at City Hall, all of which questions MUST be answered by Vision Vancouver, if the public is to maintain any faith at all in their elected officials at Vancouver City Council and Park Board.

Also on Thursday, Vancouver Metro News weighed in with information on the proposed development, as did Frances Bula, at the Globe and Mail.

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Vancouver Park Board's John Coupar, Constance Barnes, Sarah Blyth, Malcolm BromleyPark Board's John Coupar, Constance Barnes, Sarah Blyth, and GM, Malcolm Bromley

First thing Wednesday morning, VanRamblings made contact with Vision Vancouver Park Board Commissioners Constance Barnes and Sarah Blyth to enquire as to whether each was aware of an "offering for sale" of city-owned land, that included a proposal for the demolition of the current Vancouver Aquatic Centre, and the construction of a new Aquatic Centre facility, on the north-end, and due east of the Granville Street bridge.

The short answer: no. Commissioners Barnes and Blyth stated that a new or renewed Aquatic Centre was not on the immediate Park Board agenda for consideration. Both were clear, though, in stating that any proposal for a new / renewed Aquatic Centre would include a public consultation process. Both Commissioners Barnes and Blyth went on to state that consideration of a new / renewed Aquatic Centre was, in all likelihood, some years away.

VanRamblings also made contact with Non-Partisan Association Park Board Commissioner John Coupar, who told us that he'd look into the matter, and would report out to us following the NPA's campaign announcement of their 2014 sterling slate of Park Board and Board of Education candidates.

John told us that he'd spoken with Vancouver Park Board General Manager Malcolm Bromley first thing on Wednesday morning, to seek clarification on issues related to VanRamblings' Wednesday story respecting a new / renewed Aquatic Centre. Here's what Malcolm told John: yes, the City Planning Department had approached him respecting a "wish list" for renewed Park Board facilities; Malcolm suggested that a new Aquatic Centre might be high on the Park Board's agenda for future consideration. Other than that, John concurred with the sentiment expressed by Constance and Sarah: there'd likely be no consideration given by Park Board, any time soon, to a remediated Vancouver Aquatic Centre, or a new aquatic facility.

Recent Park Board historical background respecting the Aquatic Centre: in fact, in 2012, Park Board Commissioners did confront an Aquatic Centre remediation proposal wherein Park Board was asked to approve a sum of monies to repair the centre's heating facility, which structure had become eroded due to the salt content in the Aquatic Centre's pools, in the early years of its operation.The Aquatic Centre now uses chlorinated water.

Remediation repair monies were approved by Park Board — and note was made by Park Board GM Malcolm Bromley that, perhaps at some future point, consideration might have to be given by Park Board to replacing the Aquatic Centre, should future remediation costs prove prohibitive.

Vancouver Cedar Party, Nicholas Chernen

In the late morning, and again in the mid-afternoon on Wednesday, VanRamblings met with Vancouver Cedar Party campaign chair Nicholas Chernen to discuss the Downtown South Development Site booklet — which was provided to us for our perusal — the cover of which is pictured at the top of today's VanRamblings' blog post, the booklet linked to above.

Nicholas told us that he and his campaign staff ran across the document by accident, when perusing other files at City Hall. Apparently, there was reference made to the document, but actual discovery of the Downtown South Development Site booklet took some while. When Nicholas and his staff finally located the development booklet, a copy was provided to him — for which he had to sign out, recording all of his particulars. Curious.

The first few pages of the booklet lay out the details of the obviously-developed-by Vision Vancouver 'offer for sale' of 12 parcels of city-owned land adjacent to the Granville Street bridge, which is to say ...

  • The City of Vancouver is proceeding with the demolition of the old Continental Hotel building at 190 Granville Street, in 2014. Upon completion of the demolition, the property will be available for redevelopment in concert with the decommissioning and removal of the eastern Granville Bridge off ramp and 'loop', the removal of the Blacktop cabs yard, and the opening up for sale of an entire square block of city-owned land (part of the City's Property Endowment Fund land legacy), for a sale price of $32.9 million;

  • The City, in offering the property for sale, is asking for "some innovative proposals for the delivery of key public benefits" for this area of the City, although offering cash or a combination of cash and amenities will also be considered.

    Among the amenities listed are "provision of 120 'turnkey' non-market housing units": 24 studio apartments (20%), 42 1-bedroom units (35%), 42 2-bedroom units (35%), and 12 3-bedroom units (10%);

  • The construction of a renewed Vancouver Aquatic Centre, with a 52-metre pool (no indication as to the number of lanes), a sauna, steam room and jacuzzi, plus gym, the new Aquatic centre situated in a landlocked location away from park land, green space and Burrard Inlet, offering little in the way of parking or ready transit access;

  • The delivery of a "community amenity in the form of built premises of approximately 10,000 square feet for ... Qmunity, either on the property or on other land located in the West End;

  • A United We Can bottle depot.

More detail available on the CityHallWatch website, or by clicking on this link.

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Is There Moral, Financial and Ethical Corruption at Vancouver City Hall?

All of the above leaves a few questions unanswered, including ...

"Why would a developer purchase one square block of city-owned land upon which a 120-unit social housing unit is to be built, along with the construction of a new Aquatic Centre which upon completion the developer must turn over to the City of Vancouver for $10, a community centre to be built that would also be turned over to the City, and the construction of a bottle depot — none of which properties would turn a profit for a developer, or even offer a return (other than a social justice return) on the developer's investment of $32.9 million.

Why would a developer, then, make such a sure-to-fail economically purchase of city-owned land, unless ...

The City — which is to say, Vision Vancouver — had struck an under-the-table deal with the purchasing developer to acquire the stretch of beach front property along Beach Avenue where the current Aquatic Centre is located, stretching from Burrard Street along the waterfront, almost all the way to English Bay, prime development property where the 'Granville Loop' purchasing developer could turn a potential profit that could very well be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Who in the media, other than VanRamblings, is asking these questions?

Will the August 15th sale of the 12-parcel Downtown South Development Site one square, city-owned block factor into the conversation in the 2014 Vancouver municipal election race? Who out there, apart from the Vancouver Cedar Party, CityHallWatch, and VanRamblings are expressing concern about the secretive nature of the proposed sale of Property Endowment Fund land, and the possible implications of the sale vis-à-vis the future sale of the current Aquatic Centre, and the surrounding, lands?

And Frances Bula was asking me yesterday, why VanRamblings has recently begun blogging 'so much' on city issues?


Poor, poor Frances, who seems never to have been advised by VanRamblings friends (c'mon now, be nice, we do have one or two friends ... well, sorta) to never ask VanRamblings a question, lest the question be answered in the inimitable, rambling, 5,000-word-plus fashion for which VanRamblings is justly infamous — and poor, woebegotten VanRamblings readers — because dear and constant reader, VanRamblings will answer that rather innocuous and well-intentioned question, as only we are able.

Make sure you're well-rested, have lots of fluids on hand, have placed the requisite dose of eyedrops in your eyes, and settle in this weekend for the answer to end all answers, the "no he can't really be saying that, migawd he is, like who does he think could possibly be interested in such an — oh migawd, it's so off-topic — "why doesn't he turn it into a book" reply.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at July 31, 2014 3:42 AM in Decision 2014


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