Iqaluit unveils proposals for new facilities

Plans include new city hall, rec centre


Iqalummiut gather round as Amy Elgersma, the City of Iqaluit's recreation director, explains elements of a proposed new aquatics centre during a public meeting Dec. 6. (PHOTO BY CHRIS WINDEYER)

Iqalummiut gather round as Amy Elgersma, the City of Iqaluit’s recreation director, explains elements of a proposed new aquatics centre during a public meeting Dec. 6. (PHOTO BY CHRIS WINDEYER)

The city of Iqaluit unveiled proposals for a trio of new facilities — a new city hall, emergency services centre and recreation centre —at a public meeting Dec. 6.

After months of public consultation and focus groups, the meeting was the first public glimpse of the buildings, and more than 50 Iqalummiut packed the lobby of the Arctic Winter Games arena to take a look.

The exact plans aren’t finalized, but Terry Gray of consulting firm FSC said the new facilities would be spread over two sites: the downtown Arnaitok complex and the Arctic Winter Games arena.

The priority item is a new swimming pool, because the city’s lease for the current Astro Hill pool expires in March, 2013 and won’t be renewed.

The new aquatics centre would have a six-lane, 25-metre pool and a leisure pool.

“It’s critical that Iqaluit gets a new swimming pool as quickly as possible,” said city recreation director Amy Elgersma. “There are kids who will stand in line for an hour to get into a public swim.”

What isn’t decided yet is where some of those facilities will reside. The aquatics centre will likely be built on a vacant lot next to city hall.

The new facilities would also include a soccer fieldhouse, fitness centre, several multi-purpose rooms, a replacement for the aging Arnaitok arena and a climbing wall.

Their locations would be divided in some combination between the current city hall site and the AWG.

The Arnaitok complex, which now houses an arena, city hall and the current fire hall is pushing 40 years old and is nearing the end of its lifespan, Gray said.

The arena floor needs replacing, the fire hall is too small and doesn’t meet building codes and city hall is too small, isn’t wheelchair accessible and often sees fumes from running fire trucks wafting into the upstairs offices.

Three sites are under consideration for the new emergency services centre: a lot at the corner of the Road to Nowhere and Apex Road, a parcel of Inuit-owned land on Federal Road just past the Trailer Court neighbourhood, or a lot near the courthouse between the Trigram building and Elk’s lodge.

The location has to be easily accessible for emergency vehicles, since they have to be able to get “anywhere in town, including Apex, in a very short period of time,” said consultant Antonio Gomez-Palacio.

A new city hall would be located at the site of the old courthouse, the airbase garage at Four Corners, or in the current Legislative Assembly building.

John Hussey, the city’s chief administrative officer, said that last location is in some ways the most desirable: since it’s already built to house a government, the assembly option would cost the least. “It’s ready to walk in,” he said.

But that depends on whether the Government of Nunavut can vacate the site in time after its lease expires in 2019.

It also depends on whether the city could reach a new lease agreement with the building’s owner, Nunavut Construction Corp.

The other major question is how the city can afford to pay for the projects.

Hussey said designing the new buildings to strict environmental standards can win grants from environmental foundations.

Meanwhile, the city will save almost $375,000 per year when leases on the curling club and Astro Hill pool expire.

But Hussey acknowledged the city will have to find funding from the territorial and federal governments, as well as its own coffers.

A cost estimate won’t be known until plans are finalized. City staff and consultants will continue to tweak the plan and gather input before putting the plan to a public vote in the fall of 2011.

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