By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Jan.14, 2011.
Tyson Braun seemed to have made up his mind.
“It’s a community amenity, and we would happily close our door as a nonprofit if we had a facility that was an improvement on what we have got,” Braun said.
The community amenity he was talking about was the National Climbing Centre, a grandly-named indoor facility proposed by Kingswood group, the proponents of the ill-fated Red Point, now tentatively rechristened Scott Crescent development.
Braun, co-owner of the co-op climbing gym in downtown Squamish, feared the climbing centre would force shut the co-op gym downtown.
But the proponents of the climbing centre managed to dim his anxiety at a community consultation meeting they had with him and a few other non-profit groups on Tuesday, Jan. 10 at the Squamish Public Library.
The meeting was an atttempt to showcase the climbing centre, but also to gauge, and possibly reorient, public support for Scott Crescent, the controversial development on Mamquam Blind Channel that was rejected twice by the community.
Tenacious and determined, the developers seem to be on a mission to win the hearts and minds of Squamish for the third time.
“We are hoping to make the climbing centre an iconic building, so people driving into Squamish can see something really interesting here,” said Kennedy, an architect working with Kingswood.
The 5,000 square feet climbing centre will have a climbing wall, a training facility, office spaces, and meeting room for community groups.
“We are in an advance discussions with the Squamish Historical Society about including a historical component to the building, so there would be an audio-visual and an artifact display about climbing,” Pottinger said.
The climbing centre will also host birthday parties, apparently a profitable side business in any commercial gym, according to Andrew Pottinger, community relations person for Scott Crescent.
It will take a “couple of million dollars” to build the climbing centre, although the proponents worry if it can operate at a reasonable level of profit.
“It does no good if it becomes another adventure centre,” Kennedy said.
But, the ‘big boys’ at Kingswood will ‘take the lump,’ if that happens, he added.
From the climbing centre will extend 6,000 square feet, L-shaped arch of commercial buildings, dotted in the end with a coffee shop.
The climbing centre, needless to say, is a test missile for the 390-condos and townhome subdivision that Kingswood hopes to get rezoning for after the completion of the Mamquam Blind Channel study in May.
Will they be third time lucky?
That hope floated at the Jan.10 meeting anchored by John Moonen, Scott Kennedy, and Andrew Pottinger.
Inside Edge, Squamish Streamkeepers Society, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters representatives were there to listen, along with Tyson Braun.
Ann Marie McKenzie, the mentoring coordinator for the Squamish branch of Big Brothers and Big Sisters, said the climbing centre would not only serve her organisation, but be an asset for novice climbers.
“My personal view is that if they can get the community buy-in, the climbing centre could be a very cool thing,” said Dee-Ann LeBlanc, who represented Inside Edge at the meeting.
She said a climbing centre isn’t part of the Inside Edge mandate, but, “We’re always happy to have more opportunities for meeting space, and many of our members enjoy outdoor recreation.”
Kennedy said proponents will imbibe the Mamquam Blind Channel study in their final plans before they apply for rezoning.
Traffic and environmental issues are also being studied closely, he added.
The community engagement efforts of the developers seemed to have given a miss to people like Chris Atkinson, a professional mountain guide and a resident of Clark Drive who has bitterly opposed the project for the past six years.
“There is no effort made to contact people who oppose them,” Atkinson said.
“Nothing has changed, they have not solved the traffic issue, and they don’t seem to listen to what we tell them and the climbing centre is an eye wash” he said.
Brian Vincent, a Hospital Hill resident, also said the development will be blight on the Smoke Bluff, a noiseless and serene area for climbers and other recreational users.
“If they really cared for climbing, they would build a climbing centre downtown,” he said.
The development would do more to brand Squamish as a bedroom community, he added.
“We need long term jobs here,” he said.
Jobs are exactly what this development will bring, said Richard Tripp, a construction contractor.
“It’s an overgrown polluted area, and if someone is going to dress it up and create jobs, then we need that development here,” Tripp said.
Tripp said Scott Crescent development would also strengthen Squamish’s shaky reputation in the development world.
“This is also about sending a message that we are open for business,” he said.
That is what Jeff Levine, a strong supporter of the development, thinks too. Levine said it’s a vocal “minority” that is scuttling the project, and the new council has an opprtunity to send out a clear message that it’s open for business.
“I would rather see a development with an iconic climbing centre than a a trailer park,” he said.
Meanwhile, the proponents hope to meet more community groups in their attempt to showcase the climbing centre, and garner more support for the development.
The rezoning application is a bit far down the road, but if the past is any guide, Kingswood would have to come up with a workable traffic plan, and a broad community support if they don’t want to be unlucky third time around.
By the end of the meeting in the library, someone asked the proponents if traffic plans was what doomed the earlier proposals.
“We would be getting into politics, but that certainly was the excuse,” Scott Kennedy said, smiling.