Sportstown redevelopment proposal gets sent back to the drawing board

A proposal is calling for the redevelopment of Sportstown. - Google Maps photo
A proposal is calling for the redevelopment of Sportstown.
— image credit: Google Maps photo

A bid by the owner of Sportstown to flatten the longtime East Richmond recreation hub in favour of townhouses has hit a roadblock at city hall.

A city council committee has ordered planners to dig up more information and consider other development options for the long-and-narrow site, located parallel to Highway 91 at 4991 No. 5 Rd.

Coun. Bill McNulty said council’s planning committee, which he chairs, wants to maximize the potential of the land and wants commercial and retail uses explored, along with the possibility of a mixed-use development.

“We don’t have any more surface area space, so we’ve got to look at other options, like going up,” he said.

McNulty said the committee also wants more information about the community impact of losing Sportstown’s recreation facilities—and wants to hear from local sports groups that may be impacted.

“What are we replacing it with for people who live around that area?” he said.

Interface Architecture Inc. has applied to rezone Sportstown to allow a townhouse complex with 102 units, most proposed at three storeys. The project also requires a re-designation of the land in the newly-adopted Official Community Plan.

“The change is sought as the owner has expressed concerns about the continued economic viability of the business at this location,” noted planner Sara Badyal in her report.

Sportstown, owned by Sportstown BC Operations Ltd., is an indoor sports facility home to soccer leagues, a tennis club, soccer academy and licensed restaurant. It’s also headquarters for the Richmond Gymnastics Association, which occupies space leased by the city that also accommodates air pistol and archery programming, according to Badyal’s report.

That lease would remain in place until it expires in February 2016, the report says. But so far, the city hasn’t said how the gymnastics club would be accommodated in the future.

At a meeting last week, proponents of the project told councillors the majority of Sportstown users don’t live in Richmond and various other recreation centres in the city could accommodate displaced sport groups. Proponents are also prepared to contribute $700,000 to the city’s leisure facilities reserve fund.

Sportstown is privately owned and operated, but at least one nearby resident has nonetheless decried the potential loss of a “neighbourhood amenity.”

“To say that the residents were less than enthusiastic about the project is an understatement. Their opposition to this proposed redevelopment is based on a number of reasons, most of which related to noise and traffic issues,” wrote Marie Murtagh in a letter to the city.

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