Friday, March 1, 2013

Park Board staff's position

(Some notes from a meeting held on Tuesday, during which we put our position to them on the value of the Forest Education Centre)

In deciding to move ahead with the new Visitors Centre, they undertook to make it a "living building," which resulted in extra costs. Shortfalls in fundraising and cost overruns resulted in a smaller building than was originally planned. Thus, they needed to keep the Floral Hall to provide the space not built in the new centre, forcing extra expenses including a new roof – maintenance which had been deferred because the plan had been to demolish it.

Park Board has developed 3 options for the Forest Centre:
1) abandon/demolish
2) keep the washrooms only
3) keep about 1/4 of the building functioning: washrooms, mechanical and some storage (probably the theatre space), strip out the windows but maintain the roof and (probably) add a railing along the pond edge so that it becomes a kind of viewing platform.

The third option is the one they're leaning to.

They estimate it would take about $800,000 to return the entire building to a functioning state, and about $30,000 per year in operating costs.

Park Board staff can't think of any programmatic reason to keep the Forest Centre, because it doesn't work well for any of the mandated VanDusen functions, and staff do not believe that the training/education/administration functions currently using the Forest Centre can't be accommodated in the other buildings.

The Park Board has no established policy about removing a square foot of building for every one built; however, they believe that every PB building is an "accessory to green space." So, buildings have to justify themselves programmatically or else be removed.

In the next couple of weeks staff and volunteer activities will move from the Forest Centre to the Floral Hall; within "a couple of months" they want to move forward on a resolution to the Forest Centre.

Park Board staff are open to the idea of partners, whether city (bringing with them other money from within the civic system) or private, subject to the use of the building being complementary to the PB mandate. An arts/culture use would be a possibility, but they 
would prefer environmental groups/programs as fitting more closely to the mandate.

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