Brainstorming a vision for new neighbourhood 

Community members look beyond 2010 in planning 200-acre athletes village site

Right now it’s the town dump. It’s hard to imagine what it could be five years from now, or even 15 years down the road.

But that was the task at hand for 35 community members during a two-day brainstorming session for what will become Whistler’s newest neighbourhood at the south end of town.

For 17 days in 2010 the site will be the home to 2,800 Olympic competitors as Whistler’s athletes village. Two months later the Vancouver Organizing Committee will hand it back to the municipality, and it will become an Olympic legacy of employee housing.

"The goal is to maximize the legacy of 2010," said Mike Vance, Whistler’s general manager of community initiatives.

The question is: what will that legacy look like?

"The exercise is to look at the neighbourhood and then we’ll work with VANOC to fit the athlete village into the neighbourhood. So it’s about 2020, not about 2010," added Vance.

One of the first orders of business during the design charette held May 19-20 was to find out about the physical and environmental constraints of the 200-acre site. The group heard from local consultants Cascade Environmental that there are no major environmental concerns, apart from the setbacks to the Cheakamus River and small pockets of wetlands in the area.

Most of the forest has been clear-cut and is regenerating, with a little mature timber in places.

"At the end of the day we found it to be a pretty good candidate site for development of some sort," said Dave Williamson, a principal of Cascade who attended part of the design meeting.

"There is an awful lot of wildlife down there and an awful lot of recreational use. That needs to be considered in the design and that was one of the things that was talked about in the charette."

Vance said there was agreement from the group to try to protect the river, the existing trail systems and the access to Garibaldi Park.

"(The goal is) to preserve those aspects that the community values now and build on them," he said.

One of the major concerns raised at the two-day meeting was the need to ensure this neighbourhood does not become a satellite community, despite being somewhat set apart from the existing community on the southern fringe of the municipality.

"It’s hard to think 15 years down the road to imagine what Whistler’s needs are and how this portion of the community would fit in," said Kirby Brown, director of employee experience at Whistler-Blackcomb and board member of the Whistler Housing Authority, who took part in the session.

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