The Rutland Park Society faces some tough questions regarding the future fate of Rutland Centennial Hall.
So the society wants engage in a public process to get feedback from the Rutland community for answers surrounding how it should proceed.
While the society has $800,000 from the transfer of park land and a road right-of-way at Centennial Park to the City of Kelowna in 2014, plus a $273,000 Canada 150 federal grant to spend on hall, society president Todd Sanderson says that won’t even cover the cost to just bring Centennial Hall up to modern building code specifications.
The city carried out an assessment of the hall, located at 180 Rutland Road North, when the land deal was being negotiated and found the building systems critically deficient and in need of immediate replacement, a cost likely to exceed $1 million to rectify.
“Since the hall was built and opened in 1967 by a dedicated group of Rutland citizens, the building has fallen into disrepair and nothing has been done to upgrade the hall…the building is in distress,” said Sanderson.
Sanderson said the society is bringing three options forward to local residents to consider—renovate the hall to the best of the society’s abilities with the existing funding; replace the hall with a new structure sufficient to maintain its existing uses; replace the hall with some new uses, complemented by commercial space that could be used to support ongoing building operation costs.
In speaking to the local media Monday, both Sanderson and George Basran, vice-president of the society and the father of Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, said this public input process is being initiated by the society board with no preconceived idea on which of the three options is preferable.
The society has hired CTQ, a Kelowna urban design, planning and engineering consulting firm, to explain the hall’s current financial renovation status and garner public input about what the society should do moving forward at a public open house planned for May 12 at Centennial Hall. As well, feedback will be accepted online from May 13 to 31 at the website ourrutland.ca.
The society is hoping that along with Rutland residents, people who grew up in Rutland and have moved to other parts of the Central Okanagan will also participate in the process.
“We want to do this and do it right,” said Ed Grifone, with CTQ. “We may end up getting other options suggested by people that haven’t been thought of at this point.”
While one of those other options may be to do nothing and leave the hall in its current state, Bazran reiterated that Centennial Hall remains an iconic part of Rutland’s future development.
“Centennial Park is our lake,” said Basran, referring to the impact that Okanagan Lake has on downtown Kelowna and how the hall can be a major catalyst for future growth of the Rutland Town Centre.
“But we can’t stress enough that we can do nothing going forward without the support of the community. We want to see public engagement in this process because what happens going forward is important to Rutland’s overall development.”
With the feedback from the open house and online responses in May, CTQ and the society board will review the data and come up with some specific ideas at a followup open house planned for late September or early October, with some of the most popular options further defined by architectural concept ideas, definitive cost outlines and potential source capital funding ideas.
From the outset of the park society striking the park land deal with the city, the idea of the revenue from that sale was to renovate the hall. That prospect was further enhanced by the society obtaining the grant from the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program, created to assist in rehabilitating community facilities across the country to mark Canada’s 150th birthday.
But Sanderson said the option of building a new hall has arisen due to the extent of the renovation costs. Even completing the necessary building upgrades, Sanderson said it will extend the life of Centennial Hall only another 10 to 15 years.
To build a new hall, he said, would mean engaging the community in a $4-5 million fundraising campaign, similar to what Okanagan College has done to raise money for its new trades centre building.
Basran noted the society is not at the stage of launching such a campaign because the idea would first need a positive response from local residents, followed by development of a specific proposal in place to capture the interest of potential donors.
Both Basran and Sanderson added no consideration has been given to getting Kelowna city hall further involved in some financial or administrative way with the project.
Sanderson added that the ongoing public consolation process this year isn’t expected to put the Canada 150 grant at risk given that funded projects need to be completed by 2017.
“With the time frame we are moving forward with, we don’t think that will be a problem,” Sanderson said, noting the society hopes to have a Centennial Hall strategy in place by the end of this year.
He added that strategy will be voted on for approval by the society membership, which currently numbers 45 people.
The society had more than 300 members when the society was voting to sign off on the land sale to the city, but Sanderson said society membership requires annual renewal and many of those past members have not done that.