Who stands to win here?
The Marina Pavilion, housing the Resto Bar in Park des Cèdres, has been on the demolition list for years. Bulletin readers know that rejuvenating the site has been on the city’s B list for a decade, but was suddenly moved to the A list, with a demolition date set for this fall.
There remains an itchy and unanswered question: why demolish that building rather than renovate it? The Bulletin has seen plans to re-insulate and upgrade the existing building and to renovate the interior with space for storage, the restaurant, a conference room upstairs and even an extension for the sailing school. This structure has a large space upstairs, ideal for large private gatherings or dividable into smaller spaces for community uses. Gatineau owns the building and it is rented by the family running the restaurant.
Estimates to upgrade the building run around $279,000 -- incredibly less than the city’s budgeted $5.36 million. While a contemporary and functional building at the marina is a good use of public funds, the real issue is why it should be rebuilt when renovation is possible.
The Bulletin asked both Councillor Audrey Bureau and the city’s communications department for the cost-and-needs analysis, but we received only general emails regarding a new building and park upgrades.
Did the city even compare the costs of renovating to building anew?
Planex Consultants Inc were contracted by the city to design a plan for our waterside gem. They were paid $59,997 for the study, which includes recommending building a new pavilion, with double the space. Double what? Double what is usable now in the existing building? Or double what exists in that building but is unusable because it has been left unattended?
This question is relevant at a deeper level than just the Marina Pavilion. Aylmer residents were outraged last winter when they learned of proposed changes to the park itself. This public reaction spurred a delay in the plans, the announcement of a public consultation, and then a delay in this consultation. It was to be April 18, but was delayed indefinitely.
Who exactly devised plans to demolish and rebuild rather than consider the solutions proposed by the current renters? The consulting firm and council all seem to be working from the premise that the building must go.
Those renters have been running a dynamic restaurant, complete with live music and dancing by the river for years, extraordinarily healthy activities for Aylmer’s active population.
The renters have a vested interest in updating that building at minimal cost; they engaged an engineering firm for a cost-estimate. That study and plan are useful to the city -- and to residents, who foot the bill! If the city studied an upgrade but decided against it, why is this information not public?
With collusion problems in city contracts all across Quebec in recent years, shouldn’t residents expect genuine transparency in public contracts, including the future of Aylmer’s Marina Pavilion?