North Vancouver's Shipyards plan moving ahead - without a ferris wheel

City of North Vancouver council is moving ahead with a slightly toned down version of its grandiose plans for the Shipyards.

The plan still has as its main features an outdoor public skating rink and covered structure, a water feature for kids (or adults) to play in, an event stage and gathering area, revenue-generating commercial space, as well as connections to the spirit trail and foot of Lonsdale.

Gone from the plan, however, is the ferris wheel at the end of the pier, which had been a lightning rod for criticism by opponents of the plan. Gone too are Las Vegas-style water fountains on the waterfront.

Both of those would require extensive infrastructure upgrades as well as approval from outside jurisdictions, including Port Metro Vancouver and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a city staff report notes.

The report does, however, leave the door open to these aspects of the original plan should future councils want to pursue them.

The end goal is an “animated and dynamic people place” meant to be a destination for locals and tourists year-round, as presented by destination marketing consultant Roger Brooks in 2013. High-end pub chain Tap & Barrel is expected to open in the old Coppersmith Shop by the end of June.

But, trepidation still exists on council about how much the scaled-back plan will cost. At the time it was first presented, Brooks suggested the plan would run about $30 million.

“We’re talking about a new public facility. It has in its broadest concept got the support of the entire council but the devil is in the details and the biggest detail is, ‘What is it going to cost?’ Without that information, I’m not prepared to support moving forward and doing additional work,” said Coun. Pam Bookham.

Coun. Rod Clark agreed with Bookham.

“While it all sounds great and wonderful and it gets good press when one supports it, there’s no cost there. How am I going to make an intelligent business decision on behalf of the taxpayers when I don’t know the costs? I think we’re a little premature in giving this blessing,” he said.

The staff report made no mentions of slot machines or “community gaming” as a feature at the Shipyards or as a means of paying for it, though council is holding a special meeting on Monday to take feedback from the experts and the public on whether to end its ban on gambling in the city.

Playtime Community Gaming, whose director was a major donor to the mayor’s re-election campaign, lobbied council in 2013 to reconsider its ban and allow gaming revenues to help pay for the rest of the Shipyards project.

Coun. Holly Back said that it would be premature to expect fully costed options for an ice rink, concert stage etc. until staff had the opportunity to research what options were available when it comes to the design, construction and technology required.

Mayor Darrell Mussatto praised staff for advancing the plan thus far.

“I think staff have done a very good job up to now of trying to identify and work from the Roger Brooks vision but it’s time now to move on from that and start getting some more specifics about costing and maybe a little bit more about how this would be set up more specifically. I certainly want to make sure this is a public space set up for everyone. It’s the age eight to 80 sort of thing,” he said. “I think this could be an amazing place.”

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