Victoria city staff are asking city council for clarification on what it would like regarding Crystal Pool – and no wonder; council has changed its mind several times on the design and location of the replacement pool.
In 2017 council voted to build a new pool to replace the ailing facility at 2275 Quadra St. For over a year, city staff planned, and received approval for early designs of the project, which was to be situated kitty corner to the current pool at the south-west corner of Central Park. Over $6 million in gas tax grants as well as millions in federal-provincial funding from the Investing in Canada’s Plan grant had also been secured.
In 2018, however, council heard from residents from the North Park Neighbourhood Association (NPNA) which had done research and provided a report addressing issues felt by residents about the Central Park site, with a large emphasis on a loss of green space.
The NPNA suggested that the new Crystal Pool and Wellness Facility be moved across the street to the parking lot behind the Save-on-Foods Memorial Arena, which is city owned but used by RG Facilities on a long-term lease. Other suggestions included looking at the parking space by the Royal Athletic Park, or working with the Greater Victoria School District to come up with a plan.
The city voted to look at alternative options, and in doing so lost the $6 million gas tax fund, $1 million from the Canadian Tire Jump Start grant, and the first two years of a 10-year federal-provincial grant that was ready to cover up to 72 per cent of the $69.4 million project.
At the time, city staff did warn council that the change in plans, and consequential pushing of dates, could bring costs up by as much as $500,000 per month.
Additionally, the city had also spent more than $2 million in planning costs for previous ideas.
At the time of the decision, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps told Black Press that she wanted everyone to be on the same page.
“What tipped the balance for me is even if we get some federal and some provincial funding, we’d have to hold a referendum and we could have the North Park residents forming the ‘no’ side,” Helps said. “We all know what it’s like to do a large infrastructural project that the public doesn’t support, like the Johnson Street Bridge, and I don’t want to do that again.”
City staff engaged with RG Facilities about the proposed site switch, but could not come up with “an acceptable business agreement.”
The city has also had brief conversations with SD61.
In June 2019, the NPNA came back with another report which laid out neighbourhood demographics and requirements. Subsequently, council approved a set of new directions for the project, which emphasized that no greenspace be loss, that designs be put forward with an equitable lens, and that affordability be prioritized.
Since June, City staff have focused on pre-planning activities, including looking over what they’ve learned, changing staffing compositions, and conducting further research into similar projects.
Now, city staff are asking council for more details as they start from scratch. According to a report coming to the committee of the whole on Thursday, these details will include no less than project objectives, scope, budget and scheduling.