Olympic Village costs top $1 billion

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Documents show council fighting a losing battle with project overruns

Damian Inwood

The $1-billion Olympic Village is silhouetted by the setting sun. Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, The Province

The wheels started coming off the $1-billion Olympic Village project in May 2007 — long before $100 million in cost overruns became public.

And five secret “in-camera” documents released by the City of Vancouver show how staff and council fought a losing battle to stop the project spiralling out of control.

The documents include an Oct. 14 report, stamped “confidential,” that went missing from council chambers and was leaked to the media.

That leak resulted in a six-month police investigation that was inconclusive and in which several councillors refused to take lie-detector tests.

The documents show that: – At a May 11, 2007, meeting, then-city manager Judy Rogers asked council to approve “interim financing” of $100 million in a bid to keep lenders Quest from pulling the pin on financing for the project.

– On May 17, 2007, council approved the deal unanimously.

– At a June 26, 2007, meeting council was asked to sign a new deal between developer Millennium and a new lender, Fortress Credit Corp., for a loan of $683 million to keep the project on track and make an additional loan guarantee of $200 million. Council approved the move, with councillors David Cadman, Heather Deal, Raymond Louie and Tim Stevenson opposing the deal.

– On Dec. 5, 2007, council was asked to pay an extra $63 million to fund 250 units of affordable housing, on top of the $32 million it had earlier approved. It also approved another $1.5 million for a total of $30.5 million for a community centre.

– On Oct. 14, 2008, council was asked to make up to $100 million in “cash-balancing payments” from the Property Endowment Fund to cover cost overruns, which had taken the project from $950 million to as much as $1.05 billion. It was approved unanimously.

At a council meeting on Thursday, council approved a further $22 million to cover further cost overruns on the affordable housing units ($15 million), the community centre ($5.5 million) and the project office ($1.3 million). The motion was carried unanimously.

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