Of the two eternal questions in Grand Forks – “what’s the status on the Tim Horton’s?” and “what’s the status on a community centre?” – residents will finally get to see and offer input into one of them on Jan. 23, when Community Futures and a community centre committee will host an open house to share a range of design, price and service options for a future Grand Forks community centre.
“I think it could give the community a place to be proud of to gather and celebrate,” Community Futures Boundary general manager Jennifer Wetmore said of a future community centre.
The open house, which will run from 4 to 7 p.m., will be hosted in a space that should highlight the potential benefits of a dedicated community centre – in the lobby of the Grand Forks Aquatic Centre.
Wetmore, who has worked on the project since funding was acquired in October 2018 through a provincial grant for $100,000, said that the open house will offer the public a chance to meet the committee and the building’s designers from Urban Arts Architecture. The firm has designed libraries, community centres and hospitals across B.C. and Yukon, including an in-progress redesign of Nelson’s Civic Theatre.
Concepts presented at Thursday’s meeting will show drawings and “high-level information” Wetmore said, to give the public a sense of its options.
“First and foremost,” Wetmore said, the community needs a place to gather that gives them a sense of pride and togetherness, and I think that this can do that.”
Wetmore, who also led the Boundary Flood Recovery’s economic arm after the disaster in May 2018, said that the flood highlighted Grand Forks’ lack of space. “We saw what was happening with our [emergency] staff and with those who had been evacuated and where they needed to be housed – we didn’t have adequate facility at all,” she recalled.
But beyond a practical command centre for emergencies, Wetmore added that a community centre would offer more space for networking events, community gatherings and recreational services.
For youth in Grand Forks, gathering places consist of school, the outdoors (weather permitting), the library, or, more often than not, a local café. Wetmore said that initial plans for a community centre aim to address concerns she heard from student consultations last year as well.
“It was really interesting talking to them because they’ve never had a place to call their own in this community,” Wetmore said. “Interestingly enough, it has become places like the Board Room Café […] but they were really interested in having a place where they could go after school, where they would feel welcome and they would be able to hang out and do homework together.”
In meeting with young people who live in Christina Lake but rely on their parents for rides home, Wetmore said she heard kids say “‘Our parents work until 5 or 5:30 p.m. and we have nowhere to go to hang out in between with our friends to do homework.”
In one design plan, there is a “hacker-maker space” with technology to work and play with (open to all ages), and the potential for a hang-out space and concession or café, among other “non-negotiable” items such as a community-use kitchen and a banquet hall, Wetmore said.
Beyond the items deemed necessary though, Wetmore said that the rest is up to the community and how much it is willing to spend on the building and its upkeep.
“The decision ultimately rests with taxpayers, if that’s the route they need to go for,” she said, addressing the fact that a tax rate hike for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary Area D would have to go to referendum.
“Whatever ends up being reflected in this concept design may not necessarily be what what local government decides to build or not build,” Wetmore said, “but I think it gives us an up-to-date estimation of what we’ll need to do to to be able to have something that’s going to serve us for the next 75 years, which is really what we’re building it for.”
The open house runs Jan. 23 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Grand Forks Aquatic Centre.