Discussing the possible future of the Rockway Centre
By Heather Abrey
Kitchener Post staff
During a discussion group, several seniors expressed concern that the City of Kitchener is “putting the cart before the horse” by discussing future plans for the Rockway Centre before deciding the building’s heritage status.
A public meeting and open house was held on Monday to present eight potential options for the Rockway Centre, located at 1405 King St. E. The choices ranged from fixing up the current facility to building an entirely new centre on a different property.
After the meeting, attendees broke off into groups to give input on the presented options.
Heritage Kitchener has recommended that both Rockway Gardens and the Rockway Centre be given a heritage designation. However, city council decided to defer a decision on the matter until after the study on future options is complete.
The eight options, as well as the heritage designation, are expected to come back to council on May 27.
Several possibilities presented include keeping the existing Rockway building.
Option 1 would involve renovating the structure to bring it up to accessibility codes at a cost of $2 million to $3 million. Option 2 would involve building an addition on the current facility at a cost of $10 million. The cost estimates include construction costs only and do not include any remedial work to the site.
However, some were skeptical that the existing building is worth saving. There are a number of problems with the structure, including having to walk through multi-use rooms where meetings are occurring in order to get across some sections of the centre. There is also a persistent problem with water around the foundation.
“For the past few years, the city has been putting money into that building in order to maintain it because they’ve had problems with water in the basement,” said Ward 9 Coun. Frank Etherington, who was a member of the committee that examined the eight options.
The building is also too small for the level of programming seniors are currently requesting, let alone future use, he said.
“By 2031, there’s likely going to be over 100,000 50-plus folks in this community. About a third of the entire population will be 50 and over,” said Robert Lockhart, a member of the RETHINK Group and the lead consultant on the project. “This is the fastest growing demographic. The demand for older-adult facilities and programs is going to be in the highest demand that we’ve ever seen.”
Other options include knocking down the Rockway Centre and building on the same site; building an addition for seniors on the Forest Heights Community Centre; and building a brand new building on an empty property in the city.
Several public-private partnership options were also considered, but would require market research before going any further, according to Lockhart. Those options would include a seniors’ centre alongside private businesses like housing, shopping or clinics.
The public-private partnership could mean building an addition to the current Rockway Centre, building a new facility on the same site or finding a new location.
Ultimately, council will have to vote on whether Rockway is a heritage site and which future option is preferred, though Etherington said he wants the seniors to decide the best option for them. Regardless of what is chosen, it could be some time before there are any changes.
“There is nothing in the capital budget for this kind of expense. So whatever happens, Rockway is going to continue at its present site, I would think, for a considerable amount of time. Until council decides what it wants to do and where to get that money,” said Etherington.
The city could save money by moving the centre because they would then be able to sell the land it currently sits on, according to Etherington. Due to the persistent basement flooding, there have been ongoing repair costs that could be saved by building a new centre.
City staff are collecting public feedback until the end of March. There are several options to submit feedback at www.kitchener.ca/rockwaystudy, including email and an online form. For more information contact Mark Hildebrand at 519-741-2687 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Rockway option costs
Option 1- upgrade current centre: $2 million to $3 million
Option 2- upgrade and expand current centre: $10 million
Option 3- rebuild on current site: $8.5 million
Option 4- build addition on Forest Heights Community Centre: $6.5 million
Option 5- build new centre on different site: $8.5 million
Option 6- build mixed-use facility on new site: $8.5 million
Option 7- build mixed-use addition to current facility: $10 million
Option 8- demolish current facility and re-build with mixed-use: $8.5 million
*Estimates include construction costs only and do not reflect cost to buy new land or remediate current property