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Planning begins anew for Olympic plaza

$15 million secured

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By Alison Taylor

There could be roughly $15 million in funding to create an Olympic medals plaza in the heart of the village.

“We don’t necessarily expect that we’re going to spend all that money on the initial phase of just developing the plaza space for the Olympic requirement,” said municipal planner Mike Kirkegaard. “The project is really a two-three step project that’s going to evolve over many years.”

The planning is underway once more to develop the last remaining corner of land in the village.

The Lot 1/9 task force, which is leading the planning for the forested site behind The Brew Pub, convened in December to review the work that’s been done to date. It was their first meeting since council, in August, turned down the opportunity to build the Paralympic sledge hockey ice arena on the lots.

Despite that decision task force members agreed the extensive community consultation conducted throughout 2006 was still valid and worthwhile and could be the backbone for future planning on the site.

What they heard from the community during that consultation was that Lot 1/9 was to be a gathering place for locals and guests, where nature and the built environment complemented each other by maximizing views and sunlight and the trees. Among many other things, this could also be a place that non-profit groups could call home.

“We feel that with the effort that we put into that process we are in a position to quickly work with that information in a design-focused exercise to come with some strong alternatives that are based on that previous work,” said Kirkegaard.

The task force is planning for the site to hold the medals plaza during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It will also be a Live Site venue — a place with big screen TVs and a party atmosphere to watch the events. It will be designed to hold roughly 8,000 people.

But that will only be developed in context of the long-range plan for the site.

“What comes on after that could take us another 10 years for instance,” said Bob Lorriman, the council representative on the task force. “I don’t think we need to built it all right away with the money that we’ve been able to secure.”

Three million dollars will come to Whistler via the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Games for a celebration plaza. VANOC must give Whistler another $1.2 million, as per the venue agreement for the arena. Another $10 million could be coming to Whistler for the Live Site program, half of which could be spent on Lot 1/9 and $5 million could come from the municipality’s hotel tax.

The task force will be using the recently released Retail Strategy to guide them in their planning.

The study calls for local independent stores and unique tenants, including arts and crafts and experiential retailing, in that node of the village. Lot 1/9, which has some commercial zoning, could be the anchor tenant as a community and family gathering area with an activated and energetic zone for children.

Suggestions in the retail strategy include: children’s festivals, laser light water shows, jet water fountains for kids, street performers creating a lively atmosphere. The strategy also suggests the weekly Farmer’s Market could be better suited in this area rather than the Upper Village.

The municipality will be issuing a request for proposals for designs this week. A design workshop is planned for mid to late February and a master plan is expected to be in place by the summer.

It is hoped the area will be ready to be tested for Live Sites during the 2008 Beijing Summer Games.

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