Project budget rises

During the past 18 months, the budget of the Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Project Ltd. has increased by 15 percent. The one-million-square-foot facility will host the media during the 2010 Winter Games.

In February 2003, Rick Thorpe, then the B.C. Liberal minister in charge of the project, told reporters that the province had paid Marathon Realty $27.5 million for the site west of the Pan Pacific Hotel. At the time, Thorpe said the expansion project would cost $495 million, including a $90-million contribution from the tourism industry.

"The project will not go over budget," Thorpe promised. "It will be $495 million or less."

However in a July 15 news release, the project office announced that the provincial Treasury Board had approved a $565-million budget. Project spokesperson Norman Stowe told the Straight that the earlier $495-million figure was prepared prior to the final design.

Stowe said an additional $40 million will cover the cost of a "connector" to the existing Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre. "When the project team went through what the actual costs were based on...what everybody wanted in the building, there was an additional amount of money required," he said. "That's when they started looking at what can the facility generate on its own--that's like parking revenue and retail. That number came to $30 million."

On July 7, the Vancouver Urban Design Panel, which advises the city's development permit board and city council on major projects, voted 5-3 not to support the expansion-project design by the firm of Downs Archambault. According to the minutes of the meeting, the panel had several "important" issues of concern, including the design of the roof, the north walkway, the facades, and the "visual strength" of the southeast corner. Stowe said that the Urban Design Panel's decision won't have any impact on the timing of the project, which is expected to be completed in 2008.