//static.getclicky.com/js

Three cultures managed to overcome differences and agree on a unique approach to creating a community centre.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON August 12, 2011 — It was a unique idea – why not put a school, a library and a community sports complex all in one place and attached to each other ? And why not do it in a brand new community. Do you think it would work?

Burlington is in the process of finding out if three organizations that are in place to serve the public can adjust their operating procedures enough to be able to work together. Cindy Mercanti, Manager Recreation Services for the city of Burlington speaks glowing of the process and how well it has worked so far.

Getting this project to the point where shovels will begin to dig into the ground had to work its way through reams of paper – and you know what that means: lawyers. There were so many lawyers on this file that they had to hire a law firm to write the definitive agreement to ensure that no one party favoured themselves. Nancy Shea Nicol advised a city council committee that herding the lawyers was not quite as difficult as herding cats and that except for some concerns with the drafting of the operating agreement – it went pretty well.

Organizationally it was quite a challenge but fair minded people with willing hearts put together a collection of committees and got on with the job of making it happen.

The last major housing development in Burlington is well underway.  Occupancy should begin late in the year.

The last major housing development in Burlington is well underway. Occupancy should begin late in the year.

At this point, August of 2011, construction on the skate board park is well underway and should be opening sometime in the fall. Off in the background of where the skate board rink is being built one can see the frames of new houses going up and construction vehicles running up and down Tim Dobbie Drive, the street that dissects the location which is immediately north of Dundas and west of Walkers line.

The Skate Board park and playing fields will be to the east of Tim Dobbie Drive with the combined library, community sports centre and the school will be on the west side along with additional playing fields. The North Burlington Skate Park is being built as part of the Norton Park development. It is targeted to be complete mid-October, 2011.

Manager Recreational Services for the city of Burlington, stands in front of the transit being used by engineers as they work on the construction of the skate board rink that is part of the Norton development across the street from the high school, library, community centre complex.  The only thing not on the site (yet?) is a Tim Hortons.

Manager Recreational Services for the city of Burlington, stands in front of the transit being used by engineers as they work on the construction of the skate board rink that is part of the Norton development across the street from the high school, library, community centre complex. The only thing not on the site (yet?) is a Tim Hortons.

The Alton community was the last large greenfield residential construction project for Burlington on land that had been zoned for housing. At some point in the not too distant future some of the lands that are designated employment lands may get re-designated and become available for housing but at the moment Alton is the last big one – and big it is.

The city of Burlington, who are not the lead on this project, insisted that all the agreements be in place, signed and approved by the various boards involved before any tenders were awarded.

The community site is on the eastern side of Tim Dobbie Drive north of Dundas.  A sports fields and a skate board rink are on the east side.  Rink is expected to open in September.

The community site is on the eastern side of Tim Dobbie Drive north of Dundas. A sports fields and a skate board rink are on the east side. Rink is expected to open in September.

 

The lead on the construction side of the project is the Halton District School Board. The project was tendered and the best bid came in from Bondfield Construction at a cost of just over $40 million. Burlington’s piece of that cost is $13.9 million. The bid is good until August 17th – the same day that the city will open bids from construction companies for the completion of the Brant Street Pier. If all these project get completed on time 2013 is going to be a ‘gang busters’ year for Burlington. We may not be able to live with all that success. Shovels are expected to go into the ground for the community centre part in September. The project has yet to be given a name. Please not another politician, there is a veteran who got passed over just awhile ago – maybe time to remember him?

At a July Council committee meeting council members were brought up to date and advised how well the project was going. The only hiccup was mention of a budget shortfall. There no panic, but at the time the HDSB was still shy close to $1.7 million for their part of the project.

The Burlington Library, The Halton District School Board and the City of Burlington are all part of this unique arrangement with Burlington Hydro in the mix as well. They are installing the solar panels that will be on the roofs collecting sunshine and pumping that energy back into the electricity grid.

Architects rendering of what the three part complex will look like.  A high school, a community centre and a library are all linked together into a single complex.  Construction is scheduled to start in September.

Architects rendering of what the three part complex will look like. A high school, a community centre and a library are all linked together into a single complex. Construction is scheduled to start in September.

 

So – what’s the big deal about this project. To most people it would make sense to have a library, a school and a community sports complex all in one place. The students could use the library, which would be part of the complex and evening sports events could use the gymnasium facilities that are part of the school. Common sense was written all over the idea. The stumbling blocks were at the organization level, where the operating cultures are quite different.

A high school principal runs one kind of organization and has obligations that must be met under the Education Act while the Chief Librarian runs a significantly different origination which is, yet again, quite a bit different that a community centre. Parks and recreation has a totally different culture and operating procedures. Each had to be identified and understood by all the parties involved and then adjusted enough to be able to work together seamlessly. Getting them all pulling together at the same time and in the same direction was much easier said than done. But in Burlington – it looks as if it is going to get done.

The people behind this are thinking well outside the box are not just linking up a couple of buildings. Heating and air-conditioning – vital – but did there have to be three separate systems? Why not just the one – sure but then how do you figure out how much each participant pays when the hydro bill comes in and who gets the benefit of those solar panels on the roof ?

Are you getting the sense that there were a lot of committee meetings going on. You betcha there were. And the lawyers were in their big time. First there was an all party Joint Development Agreement that set out the sharing of the design ands construction costs. Care to guess how many drafts that went through?

The project came together when Leo DeLoyde, GM Development and Infrastructure, asked then newcomer Scott Stewart if he would talk to the people at Parks and Recreation to see if anything could be done

This project however is planned as much more than a collection of organizations coming together to benefit from synergies and scale and the cost savings that come from a larger project. The group involved the Burlington Tourism office which was the first signal that something quite a bit bigger is planned.

Once the building is open and operational the layout above give you a sense of what will exist and how all the parts are linked together. One wonders where the hallway monitors at the high school will end their rounds.  Maybe no monitors?

Once the building is open and operational the layout above give you a sense of what will exist and how all the parts are linked together. One wonders where the hallway monitors at the high school will end their rounds. Maybe no monitors?

 

The city wants to create a centre where provincial level sports events can take place and Burlington is being positioned as the community that has it all. The focus is going to be on floor sports: basketball, badminton and volleyball are the original focus. Meetings have already been held with the provincial sports organizations and while there are no events scheduled for the facility yet – those 32 foot ceilings and four courts all in one large space with up to date change rooms and a large venue – will certainly put Burlington on the map for the provincial level sports community. Burlington Tourism will finally have something to sell – I mean Spencer smith Park can only take you so far.

While having a flashy new facility with all the whistles and bells will certainly draw flies, it has to work as a single entity – and that is where the magic in this initiative exists.

There was a Steering Committee, a Construction Team as well as an Operational Team, and various sub-teams. The Steering Committee has representatives from all three organizations and is overseeing the project and the development of the various agreements. The Construction Team deals with all aspects of construction and has representatives from all organizations as well as the architect.

Cindy Mercanti stands before the bill board that shows what is about to be built on the site north of Dundas and West of Walkers Line.  Major change for that part of Burlington.

Cindy Mercanti stands before the bill board that shows what is about to be built on the site north of Dundas and West of Walkers Line. Major change for that part of Burlington.

The Operational Team assisted the Construction Team with detailed design and has led in the development of the operating model and operations and maintenance agreement.  Similar to the Construction Team, representatives from all three organizations participate.  And there are sub-teams all over the place from the three organizations. As Cindy Mercanti explained it: “This was a very collaborative process” The city team included Parks and Recreation, Roads and Parks Maintenance and Community Strategic Initiatives

The three groups of people from three significantly different organizations made this happen. Let us return and tell you who they are and how they managed to make it all come together and work – so far.

 

 

[retweet]

 

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1 comment to Three cultures managed to overcome differences and agree on a unique approach to creating a community centre.