Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Casino Royale's Birth Pangs....Did Smilin' Sammy Ever Suffer From Morning Sickness?


Before we get going on the substance of today's post, let us first return to a portion of "A. Dave's" timeline, shown with bold headers below, that brackets many of the newly confirmed points that Sean Holman posted-up yesterday (in italics beginning with asterisks):

November, 2008: Province Treasury Board approves PavCo’s $365 million business case for all renovations noted above, with an estimate given by PavCo’s David Podmore that it will cost $200 million for the retractable roof alone – the approved business case is over $200 million higher than the original estimate of only 8 months prior.

* BC Pavilion Corporation (PavCo) issued by invitation, the RFP for 'General Contractor - Construction Management' of the BC Place Phase 2 Retractable Roof Construction project on November 3, 2008.

* The RFP closed November 17, 2008.

* PavCo signed a letter of intent to PCL on November 26, 2008.

* RFEI (Request For Expression of Interest) issued March 6, 2009 for Site 10A lands, based on renovations to BC Place, including a new retractable roof.

* RFEI closed March 27, 2009.

* Pre-qualified respondents to the Site 10a RFEI were short-listed and invited to respond to the RFP on April 20, 2009.

* On April 27, 2009 PCL completed pre-qualification reviews of the sub-trades for the retractable roof construction project.

* RFP for Site 10a development closed on May 22, 2009.

* June 29th, 2009, Paragon was notified of its selection as Preferred Proponent (subject to negotiation of an acceptable "Master Development Agreement").

October 23, 2009: Province reapproves PavCo’s revised business plan at $365 million, but only a month later a fixed-price contract to replace the roof (none of the other work is included) with Poole Construction is signed for $458 million – the roof work alone is suddenly $258 million more than Podmore’s $200 million estimate of only 11 months earlier.


Here's the thing - a close examination of the timeline above strongly suggests that the Casino always followed the Roof in it's conception (and thus the Casino always comes second so that it can help pay for the Roof.......yada, yada, yada).

But there is something missing in the timeline above.

Which is - when was the actual Casino itself first conceived of?

Well, in Municipal terms at least, it would appear that we can pinpoint that date to October of 2008, which would put it quite a bit higher up on the timeline.

Because that was when Sam Sullivan's soon-to-be-extinct Vancouver City Council approved an amendment to the North False Creek Official Development Plan, and inserted the following language into the section entitled: Land Use In False Creek North Generally; Cultural Recreational, and Institutional Uses Serving the City and Region (Section; pg 11; careful large pdf):

"...The proximity of the (BC Place) Stadium, General Motors Place, and Science World and their ready access to public transit, reinforces the role of the area as a centre for entertainment, sports, and cultural and public events, serving the City and region.

To enhance this role, Council may allow sub-area zonings to include other cultural and recreational facilities, including a major art gallery and a major casino......"

Interestingly, the term 'major casino' was not mentioned in the actual amendment as it pertains specifically to the potential non-residential uses of Area 10 (Section 3.4.3, pg 9 of document linked to above), which, as you can see in the Holman portion of the timeline above, is the chunk of land directly adjacent to BC Place Stadium where the Casino Industrial Complex will now be built and operated by Paragon Gaming Inc.

However, the term casino was used when the potential Non-Residential uses of the land specifically surrounding the Stadium were described in a separate slightly earlier City of Vancouver document - which was the original planning document dated Sept 3rd 2008 (see Section 2.2; Non-residential Uses; pg 11, smaller pdf).


Why the uncoupling of any mention of the casino, specifically, from Area 10, as one moves from the planning document in September of 2008 to the official, Council-approved ammendment one month later October of 2008?

Well, I suppose one could argue that it may have been that the super sharp council of Mr. Sullivan just wanted to keep all of North False Creek's geographic options open for said concern.

Then again, if one were cynical, one might alternatively suggest that the switcheroo was done to help keep the Roof out in front of the Big Casino.

Because here is what Premier Gordon Campbell told us a few months earlier in May 2008, when he first announced the BC Place Stadium improvement scheme:

"This is something we believe every British Columbian will benefit from," he said B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell this morning, inside the 25-year-old stadium.

The changes include:

- Upgrades to the existing roof, in time for the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics. Opening ceremonies organizers are happy with their preparations to date.

- There will be new concessions, improvements to seating, and a B.C.-style wood look to the interior of B.C. Place, in time for the opening ceremonies.

- A new retractable roof installed by 2011. It will be based on the canvas roof used in Frankfurt Germany.

- A new home for the Vancouver Art Gallery on the old Plaza of Nations site, with 320,000 square feet of space, twice the size of its current home on West Georgia.

- Creation of a cultural and retail hub outside the stadium.

- Possible high-rise condo development, on the B.C. government-owned site.

Now - the new Art Gallery is there, which turns up in the Amendment five months later....But can you find the word Casino anywhere in that statement by the good Premier?

Of course not.

In fact, truth be told, I, myself, took that last phrase in blue to mean that there was a condo-jacking on the way, as did former, pre-Smilin' Sammy City Councillor Anne Roberts.

Which could, based purely on the currently known, publically available facts at hand, have been the true intention at the time, I suppose.


Someone can now move the Casino's Conception, immaculate or otherwise, even further up the timeline ......


So, how did I get onto all this City ammendment stuff anyway?.....Well turns out that I came across the following statement in PavCo's publically available 'Capital Project Plan' dated Dec 27th, 2008 (I'm sure Lotusland's hard working proMedia were really on the ball that day, the day after Boxing Day during the Big Snowmaggedon, eh?), "....the City of Vancouver approved the Official Development Plan (ODP) for a gross buildable area of 1,400,000 square feet in late Oct 2008...." which made me go searching - and sure enough that figure is in the section of the Amendment specifically pertaining to Area 10 (although it is in square meters not feet)....I also got a couple of very explicit follow-on nudges from 'Ian' in the comment threads, and whose blog is now linked to in the sidebar (EastOfTheSun)....
One final thought.....Can't help but wonder, given their now fully-documented penchant for getting together and making and deciding to appoint one of their members to call decision makers prior to deals going down for good, if any of the fine folks from Paragon, who had already purchased the teeny-tiny Edgwater Casino back in 2006, ever spoke to Mr. Sullivan, or any of Mr. Sullivan's 'people', about the amendment before it was passed on that fateful day in the Fall of 2008.....



spartikus said...

LOL - this makes the "anti-gambling" posturing of Sean Bickerton et al on Frances Bula's blog all the more hypocritical.

What with Suzanne Anton actually getting a campaign donation from Edgwater Casino and all.

RossK said...

For those interested, Ian Reid now has a good summary up of the City's NFalse Creek ammendment process as he understands it....

Ian notes that the planning document I quote from in the attached post made it clear that the City worked with PavCo to craft the ammendment....Ian also indicates that the North False Creek development plan review process, which led to the ammendment, was started in January of 2008 at the request of the province (ie. which is five months BEFORE the Premier made his big BC Place re-roofing and revitilization announcment).

Then as a kicker, Ian asks a critical question, which is "...How did the City policy makers, working hand in glove with PavCo know to include an amendment that would allow a major casino use on the site?..."

(and please remember that the manager overseeing those policy makers at that time was not Penny Ballem)

I think I would be remiss, at this point, if I didn't mention that Ian once worked as a pol in both the Vancouver Civic and BC Provincial scenes in roles that were decidedly neither NPAist nor Liberalish, many of the specifics of which can be gleaned by perusing any number of posts from Sean Holman's archives (here is one good, if somewhat cryptic, example)....However, having said that, all of the suggestions Ian has offered up at this little plot of pixels in the Bloggodome regarding the Casino Royale matter have so far held up under scrutiny and, more importantly, they have led me to search out publically available documents that contain information of significance about what, in my opinion at least, really happened.


RossK said...


Date(s) and amount(s).....?



spartikus said...

$200 in 2008 (PDF - pg. 8)

Small potatoes, sure.

RossK said...