By Alison Taylor
The municipality is shelling out $3.5 million to pay off the outstanding mortgage and take ownership of Millennium Place, a building most recently assessed at approximately $10 million.
Mayor Ken Melamed admits when you look at it that way, it’s a great deal but the real estate investment wasn’t council’s incentive.
“We wanted this to remain a community facility,” he said after Monday’s council meeting.
“It wasn’t a purchase that we wanted to make. We’re doing it for the community. Everybody had hoped the building would have been paid off as originally anticipated and it would be at arm’s length from the RMOW (Resort Municipality of Whistler).”
The loan, which was guaranteed by the municipality, was due at the end of April.
Talks between the municipality and the owner, the Whistler Interfaith Society, have been underway for a year, as the loan deadline loomed.
The deal, which was announced Monday night, brings some certainty to Maurice Young Millennium Place, a building that has become a cultural and spiritual meeting place in Whistler.
“I’m very happy with the muni through this whole process of recognizing Millennium Place as a jewel in the community,” said Millennium Place general manager Dennis Marriott.
“This is a place where we can meet, have great events, community offices, day care, a youth centre. They realized that that’s important and I think they stepped forward to make sure that that service continues for the community.”
Operations at the centre will not change despite the change in ownership.
The municipality will continue to lease the building to the Maurice Young Millennium Place Society, a non-profit organization run by a 13-member board of directors. The only caveat to that is a deal around the 2010 Olympic Games, details of which have yet to be worked out.
Mayor Melamed said there have been several parties that have looked to use the facility during the Games.
“The municipality wanted to reserve the right to make that decision,” he said. “We don’t know what will happen, whether it will be rented or not. It will be a decision that will be made (and) it (will be) built into the terms of the agreement.”
The agreement also allows the Whistler Interfaith Society a buy back option within five years.
For the past two years the municipality has given Millennium Place $360,000 in a fee-for-service payment. Each year it has used $120,000 of that fee for mortgage payments. The remaining $240,000 was for operations.
The building was built in 2001 for a cost of $7.4 million. The owner, the Whistler Skiers Chapel Society (now called the Whistler Interfaith Society), was not able to raise funds to cover the full cost.
The municipality stepped in to guarantee the $3.5 million short-term mortgage in 2002.