Whistler’s master planner Eldon Beck took the stage Monday night, updating council on the community’s vision for the final piece of the village puzzle – what to build on lots 1 and 9.
In his quiet, calm voice, Beck, who has had a hand in shaping most of the village, outlined what could be one of Whistler’s most significant legacies from hosting the 2010 Olympic Games: a Paralympic ice arena and a lasting recreational legacy for the community after 2010.
He spoke of a magical place in the heart of the village – a place that capitalizes on the surrounding views of Singing Pass and Wedge, Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains; a place that is warmed by the sun; that brings locals and visitors together for unique recreational experiences; that is relaxed, friendly and informal. This is not just another development.
He told council he thinks "the life" of lot 1/9 is perhaps more important that the architecture of the place.
"I think the fact that this is missing has been a negative here for a while," said Beck.
With the preliminary design now in place, Whistler is moving forward with plans to do more detailed design work and develop a business plan showing how the municipality will pay for it.
"You’ve taken what was an idea in most of our minds and made it a very real concept," said Councillor Tim Wake, as he praised the work of Beck, municipal staff and the volunteer community members who have been a part of the task force bringing the ideas together in one functional design.
The preferred concept, chosen in an open house in March, is called The Sunny Island. It would see an enclosed arena in the centre of lot 1/9, the forested, municipally owned land behind the Brew House, surrounded by five buildings.
Together those buildings, not including the arena footprint, make up 73,000 square feet – almost three times as big as the IGA Marketplace, which is 27,000 square feet. In earlier presentations The Sunny Island concept was 54,000 square feet.
Most of the space in the adjacent buildings will be for public use; things such as arena storage, classrooms, an indoor children’s playroom, arts and cultural space, among other things.
Other space could be for retail or tourist accommodation.
The existing zoning on the lots allows almost 17,000 square feet of commercial space and 10,000 square feet of market tourist accommodation.
While this could help offset the cost of building the arena, the report to council states: "Uses should only be considered that complement and add value to the local economy…"