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Whistler’s athletes village takes shape

VANOC money coming in as construction begins

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By Clare Ogilvie

The roads are roughed in, the sites are cleared and ready for building, and most of the money is in the bank.

Now it is full-steam ahead building the athletes village for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games at what will become the Cheakamus Legacy Neighbourhood.

“We got the venue agreement signed at the end of March,” said Eric Martin, chair of the Whistler 2020 Development Corporation, the municipal organization charged with delivering the village.

With that agreement came most of the funding — $27 million — promised by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Games. VANOC has pledged a total of $35.5 million toward the $130 million neighbourhood.

“We are very happy to get that cheque. We wanted to make sure we had the money in hand,” said Martin during his quarterly update to council this week.

Most of the remainder of the funding will be raised by selling the village units off as homes for Whistler residents. The price will be capped and it’s hoped the project will help address the long-standing problem of high-cost housing for resort workers.

The WDC’s plan is based on a project that will break even once the units are all sold. But it can sell as much housing as it needs to at market value to reach this goal.

The municipality has stated that it wants to see no more than 15 per cent of the housing sold at market value, if the development corporation needs to take this step for the project to break even.

The municipality can also have retail space in the new neighbourhood.

Up to $20 million worth of work will be done this year at the site, which will house 2,050 athletes for the Olympics and up to 330 athletes during the Paralympics.

Draft plans of the site and an artist’s rendition of the housing that might be built were available during a media tour of the site this week.

“We can’t say thank you enough to all of the volunteer board,” said Councillor Ralph Forsyth.

With the maps and pictures now front and centre it’s easy to forget that just a couple of years ago officials were considering using temporary trailers for the village.

“We have come a long way,” said Martin.

Joining him on the media tour were other members of the WDC and VANOC officials.

Tonka-yellow diggers and movers are already working all over the site and some areas are close to being ready for building to begin.

Last year about 180,000 cubic metres of rock was drilled, blasted and moved. All of the material remained on site and was used to create the core of the neighbourhood and bring the building pads up to design grades.

This year will also see the last of the former dump integrated into the plan. Testing of the landfill gas captivation system was begun by the RMOW in January.

National sport teams have already visited the site said Nejat Sarp of VANOC. The team from the UK, he said, faxed back a letter after the visit saying the village would be a dream place to experience the Games.

“This has a sense of place here, a sense of the alpine, which is fantastic,” said Sarp.

It is hoped, added Martin, that the village project will be accepted as a pilot project for the LEED’s (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) new neighbourhood category.

“We think this is important, especially from our perspective as we stay with our vision (for sustainability),” said Sarp.

If accepted by LEED it would be the first of its kind. The designation takes into account transportation routes, how storm water is handled and the design of the neighbourhood.

– With files from Alison Taylor

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