First townhouses in Cheakamus Crossing almost done 

VANOC may use buildings for temporary employee housing, though nothing confirmed

VANOC employees may be calling Cheakamus Crossing home this year.

The organizing committee for the 2010 Olympic Games has expressed interest in using units in the athletes’ village as temporary employee housing if they are completed ahead of schedule.

“If VANOC wished to use them for a period of time, then we could make them available,” said Joe Redmond, president of Whistler 2020 Development Corporation (WDC), the group responsible for the construction.

“We have not heard anything further other then them asking if it is possible to use those homes.”

The first 60 townhouses in the Cheakamus Crossing development are expected to be ready by the fall. However Redmond said the WDC would need to know exactly how many units VANOC wants.

“It is one of those things that is not conclusive in any way, we are just talking to them about it,” he said.

“If there needs to be anybody from VANOC who wants to come out and have a place to stay, then this is an option. There are probably other options as well.”

One of the main issues is how to service the available units, without servicing the entire site.

Another is how VANOC would reimburse WDC for using the units earlier than previously agreed.

“We would expect if they are using them that we would be reimbursed in some way, because we would have to heat them and we would have to probably do some work on them after,” said Redmond.

Construction on the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood is on time and on budget, with the final two development permits approved by council Tuesday, May 20.

Work on one of the apartment condominiums has begun, with construction workers currently building the second floor of the four-storey building. And the concrete slab has been poured for the Whistler Housing Authority rental building, and framing work will begin soon.

“Everything is moving on schedule pretty well,” said Redmond, adding that all construction must be completed by November 2009, when the buildings are handed over the VANOC for the Winter Games.

The buildings will be finished to the standard VANOC needs to house Olympics athletes during the Games. Most of the units will not have kitchens and partitions will be added to create more bedrooms. Once the Games are over in the spring of 2010, the temporary partitions will be removed and the units will be refurbished into homes.

The project’s contingency is also intact, with approximately $2 million not yet allocated to any projects.

“If you look at the original business plan numbers, there was about an $11 million contingency for the whole project. What we have done is we have allocated that contingency through all the different projects,” said Redmond.

“A number of projects we already have fixed prices on, so the contingency gets reduced on some of those. So we are still carrying a contingency on each project, but in addition, we still have about a $1.8 to $2 million contingency kind of below the line.

“So we think we are well on budget.”

Redmond said the WDC will most likely use the $100 million Municipal Finance Authority (MFA) loan to bridge the gap between when the neighbourhood is constructed over the next two years and when title to the units is actually sold after the Olympics.

In January this year, the group had not yet determined whether the MFA loan would be the project’s only source of funding. The WDC was also looking at the possibility of borrowing from conventional banks, charter banks or credit unions.

Redmond said this week that the WDC board and the Resort Municipality of Whistler have agreed that the MFA would be the cheapest money available.

“We could get it from a more traditional source like a bank, but the cost would be higher. That cost would have to be passed on ultimately to the purchaser,” said Redmond, adding that the MFA rate currently sits at approximately 1.2 points below prime.

Streets running through the future neighbourhood were also named this week.

The four public roads will be named Legacy Way, Madeley Place, Cloudburst Drive and Mount Fee Road. And a private road running between Mount Fee Road and Madeley Place has also been named Whitewater Drive.

The new bridge over the Cheakamus River that provides access to the neighbourhood has been named the Zebrowski Bridge, after one of Whistler’s pioneers Walter Zebrowski.

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