Skip to content

Skyrocketing 'ridiculously expensive' civic projects mean Burnaby wants experts to review costs

One city councillor said the projects are 'over-designed.'
Coun. Pietro Calendino wants to have more expert guidance when it comes to construction and design costs of major civic projects.

Burnaby has voted to bring in an advisory panel to review cost estimates on the city’s major civic projects, which have shot skywards over the last year.

At a council meeting Dec. 11, Burnaby Citizens Association Coun. Pietro Calendino said he had concerns about the designs and subsequent costs for Burnaby’s community centre redevelopments.

Calendino has repeatedly asked staff why construction for residential projects can be around $600 per square foot, while the city’s civic projects are coming in at $1,300 per square foot or more.

Calendino said the response is often “you can’t compare apples to oranges.”

He suggested the city bring in a panel of experts to advise on design and construction, similar to what Metro Vancouver has done in the same situation.

Calendino’s idea came in response to the overbudget C. G. Brown Pool and Burnaby Lake Arena project.

The project came in at almost $340 million in August.

It was originally estimated at $187 million.

It resulted in delays while the city worked to find cost saving measures.

The revised design will still cost almost $54 million more than originally planned (for a total of $240.9 million) and will be about 75,000 square feet smaller.

Calendino commended staff for their work but said additional reviews are needed.

“I believe that (staff) don’t have the expertise of cost of construction or cost of design,” Calendino said.

He said the panel could advise whether designs are adequate for the type of project the city wants, or if the project is “over-designed” or “over-built because of the over-design.”

He said he thinks the huge costs the city has seen are because the projects are “usually over-designed.”

“I think we can have more simple, more practical type of design,” Calendino said.

“I think it might be beneficial in regards to the cost.”

OneBurnaby Coun. Richard Lee supported the idea.

“I think it’s a good idea to get some other views,” he said.

“I’ve always (been) saying that design work could be more efficient so that we’re cutting … costs to our major projects.”

Independent Mayor Mike Hurley, who said the new $240-million price tag for the Burnaby Lake project “still seems ridiculously high,” expressed caution about the advisory panel but ultimately agreed with the idea.

“We have to come up with the right model for this, and not make it too cumbersome, or we’ll be spending more and more time talking about designing and getting things done.”

“It’s a good thing to do, but it’s not something that we want to cause us another year’s delay, or two year’s delay, while people make decisions.”

Council unanimously agreed to Calendino’s motion to establish the advisory panel.

Overbudget and delayed civic projects in Burnaby

C.G. Brown Pool and Burnaby Lake Arena (Burnaby Lake Aquatic and Arena / Burnaby Lake Recreation Complex)

Confederation Park Community Centre

Cameron Community Centre

  • Originally estimated at $249 million in March 2022. The contractor’s estimate this fall was close to $350 million, according to a slide deck on the city’s capital plan
  • The facility came in “substantially over budget” in October; the city is now working to get the project back on budget through value engineering
  • In September, the mayor expressed concerns about the design of the facility’s roof: “It’s been a bit ridiculous, that style of roof that was there. All’s roofs are for is to take water off a building. There’s no need to spend a fortune on roofs, in my opinion,” Hurley said.
  • Demolition of the existing facility has been delayed to the second quarter of 2024. The delay will likely mean extending the lease at the temporary Cameron Community Centre and Library, which will result in additional costs toward the end of the project. One councillor said the lease costs the city “a pretty penny.”

New RCMP detachment

  • Originally estimated at $162.5 million in July 2023, now just under $202 million
  • A staff report said the $160-million budget was “insufficient” due to additional technical and environmental requirements (such as including electrical vehicle charging and meeting the Energy Step Code level 3) as well as escalating construction costs

Rosemary Brown Arena

  • Delayed from original opening date of fall 2021, the facility is still not open to the public
  • The city said the main source of delays was sourcing the facility’s wood timber roof beams from Italy and Austria
  • In January 2023, city staff promised the facility would be ready by the end of the summer. The facility is now delayed by more than two years.

[email protected]