Vancouver Aquatic Centre replacement plan floated

Some innovative and controversial ideas are being floated to replace one of Vancouver’s most-recognized public buildings.

The Vancouver Aquatic Centre in the West End is 40 years old and starting to show its age. City officials estimate it would cost $40 million to renovate the facility.

“The Aquatic Centre does need to come down,” says Parks Board Chair Aaron Jasper. “It’s a $40 million renovation.”

Rebuilding it on site would be costly, so the City is looking at getting a developer to build a new facility, but not everyone is sold on the idea.

The centre is home to several swim clubs.

The city is now accepting proposals from developers for an area at the north end of the Granville Bridge, looking for ideas that include a new aquatic centre to be transferred back to the city for a nominal fee.

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The land is currently part of the loops connected to the Granville Street Bridge, which are due to be removed. It also houses the old Continental Hotel social housing building, which is due to be demolished.

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“This is not even the first discussion about how the Aquatic Centre could be replaced with something that would better meet the needs of the people and be better placed,” says Gordon Price, former city councillor. “This one is actually a bit of out of the way from a transit point of view. There is another argument that the new neighbourhood emerging near the Granville Bridge really does need some major public amenities.”

Others argue it’s an important part of the city’s history.

“I think a lot of people want to get rid of it, because they think it’s ugly, but I think the issue of heritage is more complex that that,” says Javier Campos, President of Heritage Vancouver. “If you look at the history, and the place of this building within what is heritage in Vancouver, you might come up with a different answer.

While a decision on the centre or its replacement won’t be made for some time, there is already a call for more transparency.

“Just seems to me it’s a bit backward, usually the community would be much more involved,” says NPA Park Board Commissioner John Coupar. “The Parks Board should be leading the way on this, and for commissioners to be hearing about this on twitter is not the way it should be.”

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Jasper says the assertion is ridiculous.

“It’s city-owned land and they are looking for ‘how do we leverage city-owned land to get better amenities?’ This is not park board land,” says Jasper.

The land could become green space or soccer fields if the building is demolished — just two ideas being floated.

While the doors of the aquatic centre are closed for annual maintenance, they re-open next month. The big question is, for how long?

— with files from Jill Bennett

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