By the time the last road is paved, the lights turn on, and the toilets flush the new Olympic legacy village could cost $180 million.
" It could very well approach the $180 million range," said Mike Vance, general manager of community initiatives for the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
The cost was arrived at recently when the Whistler 2020 Development Corporation, which is responsible for making the 2010 Olympic Athletes Village, an athletes centre, and the post-Games legacy village a reality, crunched the numbers.
This week Vance said an engineering company would be hired and as soon as possible offer the development corporation a more concrete idea of how much it would cost to clear the site and get it ready for construction. A business plan is also in the works so that the future of the site can be more accurately determined.
"The highest priority right now is to refine all of these questions and answer all of these questions," said Vance. "The next focus is on the details of the costing and the site servicing."
This may impact what the legacy village looks like as it has become clear to the 2020 Corporation that with current site and construction costs it is very unlikely that resident housing can be completed at the $175/square foot bench mark set for employee housing in the resort. A more realistic cost is $240/square foot.
"We may make a decision to tighten the plan up, for example to reduce clearing and site servicing," said Vance, adding that might mean making housing denser in the commercial core.
It may ultimately affect how much of the village is temporary or permanent.
Vance said every option is being looked at as the 2020 Corporation moves toward making the resident legacy housing a reality. That includes offering the homes at a variety of prices, and re-visiting whether or not some of the land not being developed at this stage could be sold at market value to allow resident housing to be sold at an affordable price.
Under the terms and conditions outlined by the government for the handover of the legacy lands to Whistler it must be used for resident restricted housing. But, said Vance, there is a possibility the government might be asked to relax this condition so that some land may be sold at market prices to subsidize resident housing, thereby making it affordable.
"But we havent gotten into this fully yet because until we know what the costs are we dont know what kind of subsidies we might need," said Vance.
Despite the cost conundrum facing the 2020 Corporation, stakeholders are determined that there will be a resident housing legacy at the Lower Cheakamus site at the south end of Whistler.