‘Lipstick on a pig’: Port Moody council postpones Kyle Centre renovations indefinitely

Port Moody’s Kyle Centre has been in a state of disrepair for years. Photo by Marissa Tiel

The future of Kyle Centre is in doubt. The long-awaited repair and renovation has been postponed indefinitely.

City council voted 6-1 to cancel the $2.9 million project on Tuesday, opting to wait for a long-term plan to replace Port Moody’s second largest recreation facility.

The scope of the project has been downgraded to only making basic repairs needed for  short-term use.

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While there’s no doubt the Moody Centre neighbourhood needs a new centre, Mayor Meghan Lahti said the city needs a facility that can support thousands of new residents.

“I’m not interested in spending $3 million of hard earned money . . . on renovating a building that’s likely going to be torn down in the next decade,” Lahti said. “The community would love to see Kyle Center renovated, but we need to look at what’s the right decision strategically for our community.”

In order for this to happen the city needs a strategic direction, according to Lahti, noting that land management discussions are starting next week.

She said the city needs to consider future locations for amenities, as well strategic land purchases, possibly even the Moody Centre Elementary site.

“Is Kyle Center the right place?” Lahti asked.

The 46-year-old Kyle Centre is in a state of disrepair, with portions of the structure covered in tarps.

Home to a number of drop-in programs and a variety of seniors clubs, Kyle Centre has been identified as needing significant repair work for at least a decade.

Port Moody’s seniors population has increased 450 percent since 1977, and is projected to increase another 215 per cent over the next 20 years.

An engineering report from 2020 stated that six items required immediate attention, but no work had been completed a year past the recommended deadline.

In May 2022, the city put out a call to developers to explore redevelopment opportunities. The city was hoping to rebuild the facility to include an affordable housing component and a cultural plaza.

In exchange, the city was considering leasing a portion of the public land for market housing, as well as increasing the density on adjacent properties.

Three developers expressed interest in the project, but council passed a motion in July to start renovation plans in the interim.

If favourable terms were not reached with developers, the city could proceed with further development phases to extend the life of the building another 15 years.

The project was designated as a high priority, directing staff to start designs to replace the building envelope, roof overhangs, storage space, and roof immediately.

Staff were directed to put the project out to tender immediately following completion of designs.

The previous council passed a motion in September to pause the process until a new strategic plan was created during the first quarter of 2023, said Paul Rockwood, general manager of finance and technology.

Coun. Kyla Knowles said throwing money at repairs now would be like: “putting lipstick on a pig,” 

“It has been a big project to date, and there’s been a lot of work that, unfortunately, is going to be tossed at this point,” Knowles said. “But we’ve got exciting times going forward.”

The only councillor against halting the project was Coun. Haven Lurbiecki.

She said council was killing off another direction from the previous council, which would reflect poorly with the public.

Lurbiecki said the current building cannot meet the needs of the community, much less the future demands of a growing population.

“Something needs to happen with Klye Center, it needs to happen soon. I believe it is our obligation as a city to take action now,” she said. “I absolutely think this is the wrong decision.”

Further concern was voiced by Lurbiecki regarding the loss of the city’s public land supply, suggesting the city was going to rely on private developers to take charge of building its public amenities.

“If we can’t figure out how to ensure that this growth is paying for itself, if we can’t pay for our own recreation centre repairs, renovations or replacements . . . we are failing our community and we are not doing are not doing our jobs,” Lubiecki said.

Other councillors rejected Lurbiecki’s framing, but did not rule out public-private partnership for a future recreation centre.

Coun. Samantha Agtarap said no one has suggested the sale of land, but council needs to be considering the best and highest use of the land for the community.

Dilworth said she was offended by Lurbiecki’s comments, adding new councils often rescind previous council directions when they come into office, including the former council.

“I think it’s really rich that a member of council for six months continues to tell other members of council that they are not doing their job,” Dilworth said. ‘Your interpretation of the role may be different than ours. And some of us have been sitting here for a very long time.”

Dilworth said no definitive actions have been decided and the city has an opportunity to form partnerships with non-profit housing providers like BC Housing, as well as private developers.

But Port Moody has “to come up to the table,” by offering up land, money or density in order to support affordable housing, Dilworth said.

Favourable long-term lease rates and cash were offered to achieve affordable housing at the Inlet Centre co-op building, according to Dilworth.

“That is the only way we will truly support any affordable housing in our community,” Dilworth said. “That’s evidenced by every purpose-built rental, every non-profit housing society and every co-op that we have in the community.”

Coun. Callan Morrison said Kyle Centre is past its serviceable life, and while it could be slightly extended at significant expense to the city, those funds could be used towards other initiatives.

“(A new recreation centre) needs to be something that’s going to be able to support the future of Port Moody,” Morrison said. “Kyle Center at its current size and capacity does not.”

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