An upstart political party is accusing the city of secrecy over plans to sell a chunk of land by the Granville Bridge in hopes of getting a windfall of cash, a new aquatic centre, affordable housing or a mixture of all three.
The Cedar Party claims the sale of the land by the bridge’s east loop should involve public consultation because it could involve relocating the 40-year-old Vancouver Aquatic Centre that sits on prime waterfront real estate on Beach Avenue, council candidate Nicholas Chernen said Wednesday.
“It’s a massive project that will affect a major transportation line and impacts a major community amenity,” Chernen said. “We think this requires public awareness, public dialogue, and that hasn’t happened.”
But the city’ general manager of real estate and facilities management Bill Aujla says it’s too soon to discuss what would happen to the aquatic centre because renewing the centre is just an option for bidders.
Potential buyers could simply offer cash – the property is valued at $36,135,568 – or a mix of money and amenities.
The city’s wish list for amenities in the area was developed with help from the park board. It includes 120 non-market housing units, a renewed Vancouver Aquatic Centre on the property (complete with three pools and a universal change room) and a West End facility for Qmunity, the LGBTQ resource centre.
The only requirement for prospective buyers is to remove the off ramp as outlined in a 2010 plan for the bridge.
The city decided to sell the surplus land because it was getting unsolicited offers for the property from international and local developers, Aujla said.
“We’re looking at a hot market at that site in particular,” he said, noting the high development in the area. (Its neighbours include the prestigious twisted Vancouver House tower, which stirred controversy by marketing to rich buyers in Asia before sales opened locally.)
“We’re trying to get as many competitors to make a bid on the property, we’ve been doing everything to make it public,” he said.
The city has advertised the sale in three local newspapers and with the Urban Development Institute since it put up the invitation to offer bids for the property in May.
So far, nearly 100 sales packages have been distributed for the property. (For the record, Metro picked one up. And no, we’re not interested in buying.)
Buyers can make offers until Aug. 15. Council must approve any offer before the city sells the land. Buyers would have to go through the city’s public hearing process if they wanted to rezone the land.