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Athletes’ village buildings approved amid concerns

Councillor Eckhard Zeidler asks questions about budget, risk

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Plans for the athletes’ village are moving swiftly through municipal approvals despite some unanswered questions about budgets and risk.

“For the considerable investment that we’re making in this legacy, my responsibility is just to understand all the moving parts,” Councillor Eckhard Zeidler said Tuesday of his pointed questions surrounding budgets at Monday’s council meeting.

“I need to be more comfortable with the level of information I have about all these deals and what the various agreements are with the different parties.”

Three different buildings were approved for development at the athletes’ village Monday night — a Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) rental building, a hostel building and the athletes’ centre lodge.

Each represents separate partners — the WHA, Hostelling International and the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC).

Two of those partners, the WHA and Hostelling International, were brought into the $131 million athletes’ village project to help alleviate risk to the municipality. VANOC had always committed to build the athletes’ centre accommodation.

Mayor Ken Melamed stressed this point in response to concerns from members at the council table.

The municipality, he said, is on the hook to build this project. It has promised to deliver enough housing for more than 2,000 athletes during the 2010 Games.

The partners are helping out in the multi-million-dollar project by putting up cash, taking on risk and building beds.

Monday’s meeting represents the approval of more than 200 units of housing, which will house hundreds of athletes during the Games.

The WHA building

This is a four-storey apartment building with a mixture of 55 studio and one-bedroom units roughly 400 to 500 square feet each.

It is expected the WHA will rent the units to VANOC employees in the lead up to the 2010 Winter Games. During Games-time the building will be used as temporary accommodation for the athletes. Post-2010 it will be rented to Whistler employees much like the WHA Beaver Flats building in Creekside.

Zeidler twice asked for clarification on the proposed budget of the building and exactly who would be on the hook for any budget increases.

WHA board chair Councillor Gord McKeever explained that the building is slated to cost $6 million — half is to come from existing cash reserves at the WHA, with $2 million more financed through mortgages. The WHA, he added, will be coming to council shortly with a request for $1 million from the municipal affordability reserve to make up the balance. That request still has to be approved by council.

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