Fundraising the focus for Britannia retreat 

Opus Dei moving ahead slowly with plans to build centre

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The zoning is in place but the money isn't.

The Institute for Research Communication and Development (IRCD) has the zoning required for a centre in Britannia long envisioned by the institute and a project spokesperson said the design work for the retreat is about half complete.

Fadi Sarraf, the president of the IRCD, estimated the retreat would cost about $15 million to build. The 700 to 800-metre road to the centre is expected to cost $3 million alone.

"We won't raise this overnight," Sarraf said in an interview while he was in Vancouver recently. Sarraf is heading up development of the retreat from his base in Montreal.

He said the road design is almost complete and it is a costly component of the project because retaining walls will be required as part of the road construction.

Because the funding isn't in place yet Sarraf said it is difficult to offer any timelines.

The project proponents are looking into all potential sources for funding, including grants, bank loans and money generated through local fundraising.

The workshops to be held at the centre once it is built would be offered by the Catholic organization called Opus Dei. Sarraf said the workshops are currently being offered most weekends in a number of different venues in the Vancouver area. Creating the retreat in Britannia would allow Opus Dei to have its own centre where workshop participants can stay overnight for multi-day retreats.

"The retreats are spiritual," Sarraf said. He added that the workshops currently being offered through his organization are mostly non-secular but based on Christian values.

Once construction begins on the retreat Sarraf said he expects it to take about two years. The road, he said, would likely take six months to complete.

"We're very much working on it," said Sarraf.

While the IRCD now has the 26.7-hectare (66-acre) property properly zoned, the organization will need to get development and construction permits from the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

When plans for the retreat were first announced some Britannia residents expressed opposition to the retreat. Those opposed to the project said they felt the property would be better used for more housing units.

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