April 10, 1998 Features & Images » Feature Story

feature 515 

Intrawest's vision explained o Intrawest donates Spring Creek school site, day care centre o "Whistler Station" keeps Dusty's, loses Gondola Barn, moves club house o 10-year plan commits rest of Intrawest bed units now o Details mailed out now, open houses April 21 and 25 "This one's a joke, right?" – IOOC member, 1960, on Whistler/Garibaldi bid for 1968 Winter Olympics, as quoted in Intrawest's Creekside Vision Statement Stories and photos by Chris Woodall There's so much revealed in Intrawest's plans to commit all of its remaining 2,300 bed units that it boggles the mind. Major revelations of Intrawest's development plans released this week include a place for Whistler's second elementary school, the long-awaited plans for the Creekside base of Whistler, and construction of 750 employee housing bed units. The plans will come to reality over the next seven years and cover five important projects exposing significant changes from Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation's plans for Creekside, including the remaining portion of the Taluswood development. The projects commit Intrawest's remaining 2,301 bed units to development — all the bed units it "inherited" from the merger with Whistler Mountain last year. Development of these units does not mean an increase of Whistler's bed unit cap. Significantly though, Intrawest has signalled a commitment to Whistler Creekside in general. Seventy-five per cent of the bed units — and the dwellings they represent — will take root in three of the four Creekside projects (Taluswood's bed units are already accounted for). The fifth project is slated for the Blackcomb Benchlands day skier lot. Here's the gist of what's happening: 1) The Creekside base of Whistler Mountain will be called "Whistler Station." A unique "pioneer" architectural look will include a new Dusty's, see construction of a major visitor centre at the corner of Highway 99 and Lake Placid Road, and a four-storey in-ground parking garage for 1,500 vehicles. Whistler Creek will be re-routed to its historic flow path to Nita Lake, creating a park across from the Petro Canada gas station. Condo units: 375. Start date: Now. 2) A new neighbourhood called "Spring Creek" will be built south of Millar's Pond on the east side of Highway 99 and will include land donated for Whistler's second elementary school, a day care facility and land for a small commercial building similar in scope to Alpine Market. Employee housing in townhomes and walk-up apartment buildings will be a significant part of the subdivision. Start date: spring, 1998. Single family houses: 48; duplex units: 30; market townhomes: 39; employee multi-family townhouses: 74; employee multi-family apartment units: 84. 3) A subdivision of carriage trade homes called "The Peaks" will be built on Whistler above Gondola Way, but next to Whistler Mountain’s ski runs, accessed by a one-kilometre road sprouting from Callaghan Drive. A small forest of old growth on a knob of the shoulder between The Peaks and Creekside will be preserved. Start date: 2000 or so. Executive single family houses: 60. 4) Taluswood Six beside the Timing Flats on Whistler Mountain will be radically changed from a series of townhouses to The Lodge at Taluswood, condensing the project to one condo hotel and eight villas in two smaller buildings alongside the Dave Murray Downhill, leaving a natural woodland untouched where the townhouses were to go. Start Date: Beyond 2000. Condo hotel units: 124, plus eight villa units. 5) The tentatively named "Chateau Blackcomb" will occupy half of the Blackcomb Benchlands day skier lot in two buildings of four and eight storeys, just north of Intrawest Resort Club. Start Date: TBA. Dwelling units: 250, representing 590 bed units. Intrawest will give Whistler residents a close look at the entire package in a brochure it put into the mail yesterday (April 9). It is also holding two open houses, April 21 and 25, at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church, where a Whistler Station model and placards displaying ideas and plans will be on display to pique residents' questions. "We wanted municipal council and Whistler's people to know where all of our remaining bed units were going, instead of watching them develop in an ad hoc way over a year-to-year process," explains Neil Rodgers, director of development for Intrawest's resort development group. Intrawest is careful to note that it does not intend to swamp Whistler with a massive building program, but will construct the various projects over the next seven years. "It should be noted that Intrawest has historically constructed only 200 units per year," it says in the newsletter going to Whistler residents. The projects don't currently fit neatly into zoning for the areas targeted. "All of these projects meet the spirit and intent of Whistler's OCP (Official Community Plan)," Rodgers says. "Yes there are amendments to zoning that will have to be made, but they fall within the intent of current zoning." Intrawest has already met with municipal council and staff. "Now we're ready to go to the public," Rodgers says. "We fully expect to listen to the community. "By no means is this a fait accompli," Rodgers is keen to point out. "There are no secrets here." Radical Whistler Station returns to Whistler roots There's a ban on stucco in Whistler Station. Instead, the condo hotels, commercial structures, visitors centre and especially Dusty's will all have an eclectic architectural program of "small town" use of boardwalks, aged wood panelling, and traditional forms to evoke Whistler's rough and ready roots. "It's very important to know that we designed Whistler Station to be very different from the Village and Village North," says Rodgers. "It's intimate. We will change a lot of people's minds in how this area will be developed," Rodgers says. Intrawest is sensitive that its name for the ski mountain base may conflict with what the rest of the area has been called. Intrawest wants Whistler Creek to still refer to the entire south end of Whistler's resort community, but just the mountainside development is Whistler Station. "We're not suggesting the whole area be named Whistler Station," Rodgers says, noting that Bayshores and other sub-areas are all generally thought of as Creekside. "We're trying to replicate some of historic Whistler into the Creekside without changing the feel of the place," Rodgers says. But that will take time. Work on Whistler's first ski base will begin slowly, going into high gear next spring. First work on the site will start this year to rehabilitate flood control on the upper portion of Whistler Creek, between the vehicle bridge and the skiers bridge. The skiers bridge will be replaced with a permanent structure, and the ski in/out bridge at Snowridge Crescent will be replaced this summer, Rodgers says. "The creek will be re-designed to make the creek banks more stable," Rodgers says. Some parts of the creek bed are unstable and are not adequate to handle future highest flow problems, Rodgers says. Other work will provide areas to encourage fish and wildlife habitat, including a natural fish ladder should the gilled animals want to try the Peak to Creek run. Flood control continues in 1999 to put Whistler Creek — from the vehicle bridge (to be replaced) to the highway — into its original flow bed. The new path cuts across what is now a parking lot between the current creek bed and the Petro Canada gas station. "This puts the creek where God intended it to be," Rodgers says. "It wasn't designed to do that sharp turn." Part of that portion will include building bigger culverts under the highway to handle "the big one." Intrawest says this is a much improved flood plan from what Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation had planned. The new direction also directs the creek away from a four-storey in-ground parking garage planned for the current on-ground parking site. The gondola barn is toast. It and some operations buildings — the three small operations houses across the creek from the gondola barn — will be demolished this summer. But even the gondola barn will live on, somewhat. Parts of it will be incorporated in the new Dusty's. The Whistler Mountain Ski Club cabin will be hoisted onto a truck trailer this year and hauled across the day skier lot to a new home on the north side of Whistler Creek. The first major construction project is scheduled to start next spring. The First Tracks Lodge will be a C-shaped, 123-unit condo hotel curved around a parking lot beside Gondola Way, but forming the south anchor of the new facilities cupped around the Creekside Gondola. Oh by the way, don't put too much faith in Intrawest's plans that show a second gondola for Whistler Station that would run skiers up the south side of Whistler Mountain, starting from behind First Tracks Lodge. "It's just there to indicate a right-of-way for a gondola in the distant future," says Dave Perry, vice-president marketing and sales for Whistler/Blackcomb. The ski mountains want to concentrate on locating any new lifts in the Whistler Village area. The Lodge will include 8,000 square feet of commercial space, 5,000 of that dedicated to Ski Scamps. All of that will face the Skier's Plaza at the north-east portion of the Lodge. Then comes Dusty's and the Day Lodge. "We certainly don't plan to change the name," Rodgers says. Construction for that complex starts in the spring of 2000 and will be open for business by the start of that year's ski season. The new Dusty's will occupy a prominent position in the heart of the Skiers Plaza. "It will be the gateway to the mountain," Rodgers says. Indeed, the new Dusty's is the keystone building that determines the whole theme of Whistler Station. "We paid a lot of time and energy to understand what it's all about," Rodgers says of Dusty's history, and by extension, of Creekside. "Dusty's will have a fresh, eclectic, funky face, but you won't feel you're walking into a trendy Vancouver bistro," Rodgers says. "We recognize that there's a different kind of person who skis the Creekside than who skis Blackcomb." Southern and mountain-facing patio decks on the second floor will take advantage of the traditional sun exposures enjoyed by the current Dusty's. Over-all, the party palace will have a rustic, funky, weathered wood and barn look that will keep the casual atmosphere of the namesake alive. Large barn doors will swing up or out to open the whole place to summer weather. That's where the gondola barn comes in. Significant beam and iron structural components of the old brown box will become part of the new Dusty's look. The World Cup Café, guest services, ticket sales, ski school and the normal services of the ski mountain will find a home, here, too. "We're consolidating the skier services in one building, knowing that Dusty's is an institution in Whistler," Rodgers says of the 45,000 square feet involved. Of some 80,000 square feet of retail space at Whistler Station, 75 per cent goes to Intrawest operations. Construction of the wood frame four-storey Day Lodge condo hotel of 141 units forming the northern arm of the Skier's Plaza will start at the same time as Dusty's, but will be completed by spring 2001. Its look — and that of the First Tracks Lodge — will stay away from the Whistler Village love affair with oddly-coloured stucco. Both will use a lot of wood exterior and aim for a rustic look in keeping with Dusty's and other parts of Whistler Station. Up mountain from the Day Lodge condo hotel will be three sets of two-storey four-plex "cottages" along the north side of the Dave Murray Downhill. Built in conjunction with the Day Lodge project, they serve to "break up the massive size of the Day Lodge" as you view it from higher up the slope, Rodgers says. The Skiers Plaza will be a meeting and gathering place that includes a permanent podium to crown Whistler's World Cup champions. "It will be a piece of public art," Rodgers says. "We envision an assembly of rocks and boulders sculpted in such a way to distinguish first, second and third places, but to be a place for the rest of the year where people will hang out to take photos." The Plaza will be about the size of Village Square, "a substantial area in terms of people," Rodgers says. Other public art features will dot the plaza, from unique light standards, to creative benches from natural materials. One thing people should know about the plaza: it isn't anywhere close to what Whistler Mountain Ski Corp. had envisioned, Rodgers says. The former plan used the plaza area as a catch basin for potential debris cast down the mountain from a major flood. "It wasn't skier friendly. I certainly don't want to have to climb up 14 steps of stairs after skiing to the base of the mountain," Rodgers says. The Intrawest plan will have a grade change across the plaza of just over a metre. "It's cost us a little bit more money in engineering design, but you won't notice the grade change," Rodgers says, bringing to mind a new Dusty's tradition of skiing Peak to Creek and directly to your seat at the bar. Intrawest wants its four-storey in-ground parking lot — with room for 1,500 cars exclusive of the vehicles of visitors staying at the condo hotels — to be a place for community events as much as a place to park. In-ground means just that: only the top level will be visible from anywhere in the area. At the highway side, landscaping will berm up to the top level so that it will look as high as it does today, Rodgers says. Hydro and telephone lines will be buried along the highway and underneath a pedestrian trail. Large trees in moveable planter baskets will split the parking lot in two, but can be moved to open up the space for flea markets, live music shows, farmers or crafts markets or what ever else the community can think of. At the corner of Lake Placid Road and Highway 99 will be Whistler's "gateway." The 7,000 square foot two-storey log building will house a restaurant and perhaps a retail store, but it will also be the main visitor centre that greets folks to the resort. Park space will be landscaped in front, including a patio area and cairns of stone and logs that will be something of a hall-of-fame to salute Whistler's community pioneers and sports heroes. "I think we can really make a statement here," Rodgers says of giving visitors a grand first impression along the lines of the impressive visitor centres at Jasper or Banff national parks. "I think of Whistler as a national park," Rodgers says. "Gateways need an opportunity to explain what happens in their resort." Beside it, but along Lake Placid Road, a smaller building of about 900 square feet will house a place for community groups to have their say. Representatives of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, AWARE, or other groups can set up displays to explain the environmental and other impacts of life in Whistler. "There are a lot of groups who promote the environmental aspects of Whistler — to not litter, education about bear habitat and our natural surroundings — who need an opportunity to showcase a message that Whistler is a special place," Rodgers says. Intrawest plans to work with the municipality to convert the old one-truck firehall in Creekside, across from the Petro Canada station, to be the building for this use. A bigger, better firehall will be needed soon anyway. Farther east along Lake Placid Road, and across the street from the current Lake Placid Lodge, is Whistler Station's "retail district." "We want this to be a very small scale level of architecture," Rodgers says of the collection of two-storey buildings, each incorporating different looks and at different angles to each other so that they give the impression of a lot more buildings than there are, and to give visitors a new "village view" around every corner. What's wanted are boardwalk sidewalks, pillar and post mining camp themes, funky nooks and spaces where you can sit for a coffee or write your love letters "We hope to see retail uses here that aren't currently in Creekside but will take some cars off the road heading for Marketplace," Rodgers says. Buildings to the rear of this section of Whistler Station will include 13 small 600 square foot residential strata units. At the opposite end of Whistler Station, where the former Whistler Mountain Ski Corp. administration buildings huddle against the cliffs, Intrawest will build the Whistler Creek Condo Hotel (its tentative name, otherwise called "B4"). It doesn't have a start date yet, but is slightly bigger in terms of number of units (about 100) than its original plan to absorb bed units that were erased with plans for three townhouse buildings that were at one point to go beside the ski club cabin's new location. "It will be the last building to be constructed," Rodgers says. But behind and upslope from "B4" is 3.5 acres dedicated for public park that will have trails to connect Nordic Estates to Creekside via Snowridge Crescent. But things continue to be flexible. As late as Wednesday, April 8, a meeting of Intrawest executives on the development plans touched briefly on ways to incorporate a direct multi-purpose link to Whistler Station from the Valley Trail, Whistler's unmotorized commuter system. Spring Creek to be Whistler's newest neighbourhood Whistler's second elementary school, a day care facility, and a corner store where residents can share a coffee while the laundry gets done — welcome to Intrawest's Spring Creek. The 5.5 acre school site will be donated and prepped by Intrawest, cutting out one of the biggest costs the Howe Sound district school board will have to shake down the provincial government for. As for the day care facility, Intrawest is donating a site for it, too, and "is prepared to make a financial contribution to the capital cost of the day care building or facility (if the day care centre becomes attached to the school building instead of sitting on its own)," says Rodgers, although the details of that have to be determined. "They are in dire straits in finding a spot for it," Rodgers says of attempts to increase Whistler's day care resources. "We've seen the success of Millar's Pond: it's a real community with a great mix of affordable and market housing," Rodgers says. "Mix" is the operative word to describe Spring Creek. "It will have a number of employee housing sites in various forms: suites in a home, townhouses, duplexes and walk-up apartment blocks," Rodgers says. To be sure it gets it right, Intrawest is working with the Whistler Housing Authority to determine what the resort's employee housing needs are. The 750 employee housing bed units in 250-300 dwelling units represent one-third of the 2,301 bed units Intrawest is going to develop. "I think that speaks to Intrawest's intentions: that Whistler is in a critical shortfall and that we need to give up bed units to employee housing to keep employees in the valley," Rodgers says. When Intrawest will start on Spring Creek is important, Rodgers says. The first phase will include building one or more employee housing sites next spring. Getting the elementary school and day care sites going with land clearing and site preparation will occur at the same time as the employee housing projects. "I can't see why we can't start construction of the school later in the fall," Rodgers says. Some market components will begin next spring, too. Spring Creek will begin south of Miller's Pond on the east side of Highway 99, continuing south toward Function Junction. It will include five acres of dedicated public park, 13 acres of natural open space, and a site designated for a 3,000-4,000 square foot convenience store building. "Clearly, in the south end of town is where the demand is," Rodgers says. "We've taken the Myrtle Philip (elementary school) model and applied it here." That means backing the school onto natural open space, which in this case is a creek bed and past it a power line right-of-way to the north, a green buffer between the school and the highway to the west, the playing field to the south and the central neighbourhood street on the east. The north and east ends of the project are where single family homes are concentrated, while employee townhouses and apartments occupy the south end. The convenience store site is down there, too. Spring Creek may seem familiar to denizens of council meetings who will remember it as the former Whistler South proposal. Back in the days (autumn, 1996) when municipal council was asking for — but not making any moves to agree to — affordable housing projects, Whistler South was the largest put forward, at that time by Vancouver-based International Land Corporation Ltd. It would have supplied 114 single family lots and 156 townhouses with the blessing of Whistler Mountain Ski Corp. That plan included sites for an elementary school, day care/commercial area and a potential second recreation centre. The Peaks sneaks behind old growth forest Even if you look up, look 'way up past Gondola Way at Creekside, you may not see The Peaks of Whistler, a 68-acre site of executive single family houses. If you look for a knoll of old growth forest to the right of the new ski runs, you'll have to imagine the area behind it as the location for the houses. The 60 lots are about 10,000 square feet each, to accommodate houses in the 3,500-5,000 square foot range. The land is zoned RR1 today, but Intrawest wants to add an RTA rating to allow tourist rental use. "It makes sense to have them there (rather) than force tourist housing in stable neighbourhoods," says Rodgers. But the house lots do not take up all the space, originally bought by Whistler Mountain Ski Corp. a few years ago. As well, 3.3 acres of the parcel will be dedicated to public park with another 30.6 acres kept in its natural state, including the stand of old growth forest that dominates one end of the project. There is no firm date to begin construction, although early site work may start by 2000. Intrawest still needs Crown approval for an access agreement. Even then, access to the housing project will come along a winding road beginning one kilometre away off the end of Callaghan Drive. "It's the lesser of two evils," Rodgers says of a more direct route up Whistler Mountain from its Creekside base, or from Gondola Way. Building the winding road, however, may provide more opportunities in opening up some sites for employee housing, Rodgers says. Smaller is greener at Taluswood Six The last piece of land to be developed in the rambling Taluswood project at the top of Nordic Estates has been radically altered to be smaller and leaving more green. Instead of a series of townhomes similar to other parts of the Taluswood area, there will be one building occupying land already disturbed by construction equipment. The Lodge at Taluswood will be a 124 unit condo hotel in a "C" shape facing the Timing Flats of the Dave Murray Downhill. Two four-unit "villas" right along the ski run will be part of the hotel complex. A pool and spa will be close enough to the ski run that patrons can hail World Cup competitors as they rattle by. "There are no bed units attached to this property" out of the 2,301 Intrawest is committing elsewhere, Rodgers says. The Taluswood units are part of earlier commitments. The site will require rezoning to allow for the hotel, but with the rezoning goes knowledge that the space freed up by the now-gone townhouse plans is going to be left as natural, open space. "A significant per cent of the site would have been disturbed to accommodate all the town houses," Rodgers says. Don't fret about booking a room. Start date for the hotel is beyond 2000. "This puts more tourist accommodation right next to the ski area," Rodgers says. Chateaus enough for all Intrawest thinks there's room for two chateaus in the Upper Village. As well as the venerable Chateau Whistler, Intrawest wants to add Chateau Blackcomb as a next door neighbour. The two Intrawest buildings of four and eight storeys will have 590 bed units in 250 dwelling units on a 2.4 acre site that takes up about half of the day skier lot at Lorimer Road and Blackcomb Way. Other than committing bed units to the site and roughing out plans for the buildings, Intrawest does not expect to start construction any time soon. Indeed, it may be the last of the five recently-announced development projects to be built. "It will require a lot more brainstorming," admits Rodgers. Even the hotel's name was a last-minute choice. The balance of the open parking lot will still be for day skiers, although it may stretch the "300 feet or bust" theory of walking to ski lifts. "That walk has to be as enjoyable as it can be while walking from the public to the private space," Rodgers says. Both buildings of Chateau Blackcomb will sit next to the north end of the Intrawest Resort Club property. The taller Chateau Blackcomb building will parallel the escarpment topped by Spearhead Drive, but not be high enough that anyone in the Marquis — across the street on Spearhead — will have the Chateau Blackcomb in their view. Although that means sight lines shouldn't bother anyone, "this design is conceptual and we'll need to spend more time on it," Rodgers says. If things are that sketchy, why didn't Intrawest keep those former Whistler Mountain Ski Corp. bed units in Creekside, too? "We wanted to keep a lower density at Creekside," Rodgers says. "I think this density is more deserving here." As for chopping off half of the day skier parking lot, "we hope it will encourage more people to use Lot 8 (at Blackcomb Base 2)," Rodgers says, although the spaces left still accommodate Crown requirements.

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