Nanaimo councillors have different visions for the design and scale of a boathouse project at Long Lake, but in the meantime, the city will pose those questions to the public.
At Monday’s meeting, council voted to ask for public feedback around design proposals for a new Long Lake Paddling and Rowing Centre at Loudon Park. The decision followed a governance and priorities committee meeting May 10 which revealed disagreement over the centre’s appearance, amenities and intended role in the community.
Council was presented with three design concepts by architect Michael van Bakels of Iredale Architecture, Richard Harding, Nanaimo’s general manager of parks and recreation, and Art Groot, city director of facility and parks operations. The new design options, estimated to cost $2.5-2.9 million, were aimed at lowering construction costs from the initial design, estimated last year at $3.2 million.
The centre, in its conceptual stage since about 2005, would be a new facility for the Nanaimo Canoe and Kayak Club and Nanaimo Rowing Club to hold meetings, train, and store watercraft, Harding said, and would also include upgraded public washrooms for Loudon Park users. The building would replace the existing structure constructed in 1967.
Of the designs presented, Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog and Coun. Tyler Brown preferred the most expensive, which features a large meeting space and completely enclosed watercraft storage area. Two other designs featured smaller meeting spaces and a storage area enclosed by a chain link fence, which Krog remarked looked “like a high-class kennel for dogs.”
Coun. Don Bonner said the building had a “very Oriental temple type of look to it” and wondered if the architect had been asked to incorporate Indigenous design elements into the building.
Van Bakels said the design incorporated natural elements and the shape of the roof was an expression of a wave form.
“There wasn’t a direct attempt to look at anything Asian … or anything of that nature,” van Bakels said. “Strictly the timbers and the wave form of the roof was driving things for us.”
Bonner argued the building will shelter canoes, so it should have Indigenous design elements.
“This is a building that will be used for canoes Indigenous nations and people across Canada have used for centuries, if not tens of thousands of years, and I’m a little concerned that we’re about to build a building that could last 50 to 70 years, at least, with extremely little Indigenous design elements into it and without partnerships with Indigenous organizations…” Bonner said. “I don’t think we should be building buildings, specifically ones that are built to house canoes, without a very significant Indigenous design in them.”
Bonner said the city should explore partnerships with Indigenous organizations that could be leveraged for federal funding, for example.
“When this first came to council, I thought we were chipping in $100,000 to do up a design so we could go after the feds and get some funding…” Bonner said. “Of all the things that we should be partnering with Indigenous people, it would be building a building to house canoes. I’m just flabbergasted we’re not going down that road because I can tell you right now, if we want to talk about reconciliation, this building isn’t doing it for me.”
Councillors discussed which paddling and rowing centre design represented the best value for the community.
“I think when we’re looking at these type of civic buildings we should be looking to the long-term community value … I would much rather spend a little bit more money to have a far more attractive and functional building, not just for the active users – those that are paddling – but also those that want to use community space,” Brown said.
Coun. Erin Hemmens said council needed to reconsider what the building’s role should be.
We’ve gone from a paddling centre … to now I’m hearing full-on community centre and I think we need to have a clear understanding of what we want out of this space and what the community would like out of this space,” Hemmens said.
Krog expressed his interpretation of the discussion.
“The old saying, too many cooks spoil the broth, seems to apply here,” Krog said.
On Monday, council voted in favour of the recommendation to ask for public feedback on the designs and have staff come back with a finalized design and costs in time for budgeting for the 2022-2026 financial plan, and consider further park development in the same project year to minimize disruption for users.
The motion passed 8-1 with Bonner opposed.