The City of New Westminster is pushing forward with plans for a civic centre - with or without a partner.
In the fall of 2010, the City of New Westminster selected the Uptown Property Group as the developer to collaborate with on the multi-use civic facility project that's being built at the corner of Eighth and Columbia streets. The Uptown Property Group had proposed to build a 100,000 square foot office tower above the city's 80,000 to 85,000 square foot civic facility.
The Record recently learned the Uptown Property Group has pulled out of the project.
"It's a great project," said Mayor Wayne Wright. "We have been going ahead."
Wright is confident that another partner can be found for the project. "There's been several people that have contacted us talking about it."
Ideally, Wright hopes a partner would want to provide office space or another use that complements the convention centre.
"It's the cream on top," he said about a partnership that provides additional tax revenues to the city and services that would complement the civic centre.
When announcing the partnership with the Uptown Property Group, city officials noted the city would benefit by having access to the office tower's parking for the civic centre.
"Parking is not only a significant cost, it's a significant need," Wright said. "One way or the other, we will always need parking there."
Even without the office tower, Wright said the city would need to build parking for the civic centre.
"At the end of the day, when we get a partner, in we will have to look at how we share in a lot of things. We are taking on some of the responsibilities right now because we have faith," he said. "At the end of the day we are going to have a civic centre.
You couldn't have a civic centre without some parking anyway."
The City of New Westminster held a groundbreaking ceremony for the civic centre in September 2010.
The first stage of construction included underground site servicing, excavation of the underground parkade and shoring of the excavation walls for three levels of underground parking.
"The property in New Westminster, until you get on it, until you know how to build, especially in this area, you don't know," Wright said about the soil composition. "You saw how deep the hole is. We are at the end of it now. It's gone deeper than we thought, but it's like anything else. It's because of the type of soils there."
City administrator Paul Daminato said soft soils were encountered in one area of the site, which required deeper excavation than originally anticipated.
The City of New Westminster is building a $35-million multi-use civic facility with casino funds, also known as development assistance compensation. The four-way agreement that was signed by the City of New Westminster, the B.C. Lotteries Corporation, the provincial government and Starlight Casino stated that the project must be complete by Dec. 31, 2013.
According to Daminato, the city is continuing to work to the original completion date for the multi-use civic facility. While the city is currently in discussions with interested parties, he said a request for proposals or an expression of interest process is something that may be considered in the future.
Now that the Uptown Property Group has withdrawn from the project, Daminato said the city is the exclusive owner of the property and air rights.
Daminato said tenders are out for the first part of the construction.
The city's portion of the civic centre will include a 350-seat theatre with flexible seating to accommodate a variety of productions, conference and meeting space, art studios, an art gallery, tourist information centre and the city's museum and the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
© Copyright 2013