City eyes replacing Centennial washrooms

City council is eyeing spending $215,000 to replace the washrooms in Centennial Square, as part of a long-term plan for the square.

City council is eyeing spending $215,000 to replace the washrooms in Centennial Square, as part of a long-term plan for the area next to city hall.

Staff originally presented council with an option to complete a minor renovation to build a single-stall washroom in the square at a cost of $65,000.

However, many councillors said a single stall could be problematic in the long run. Council opted to allocate up to $215,000 from the city’s building and infrastructure reserve fund to build a larger washroom in the current location during a meeting Thursday.

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said having a washroom in the square is incredibly important to accommodate the increasing number of residents and tourists who use the area for a variety of reasons year-round, including the city’s homeless population who rely on them for 24/7 use.

“I do want washrooms there. I’d like us to look to more permanent washrooms, not just one stall. I really think when you look at the wants and needs, having a permanent washroom is a need and something we can’t think of as future planning down the road,” she said, noting taxi drivers also use the washrooms. “I think it’s worth the money that we spend in the long-term.”

Last year, council agreed to update the washrooms, which have been in operation since 1965, spending $125,000 to do so.

However, shortly after work began this year, crews discovered the existing walls were considered to be unsound. Since then, renovations have grounded to a halt.

Many councillors struggled between choosing a single-stall washroom and a larger facility at a higher cost.

Mayor Lisa Helps called the decision a challenging one, adding if there was an overdose in the washroom or someone was to get sick during a festival, it would cause a big headache for people wishing to use it.

“I think I’m willing to stand up and defend our $340,000 expenditure over a period of three to five years, so people can access those washrooms,” she said.

Coun. Jeremy Loveday voted against spending the money, adding a more cost-effective and creative solution could be found.

“When you look at the money that we’ve sunk into it . . . it seems too much for me. You could build a nice house for this amount of money,” he said.

Updating the washrooms is part of the development of a master plan for the revitalization of Centennial Square.

The plan also proposes the addition of a children’s play feature. Staff would take a similar approach to the project as they did with the Ship Point Pop-up design competition in the summer, creating a competition to install a temporary play feature for next year.

The long-term plan will also look at the future of the fountain, a new wood carving space, new permanent recreational equipment, such as table tennis or chess boards, renaming of the square, and investments to maintain the existing Centennial Parkade.

Staff will report back to council with options for washrooms, including gender neutral and wheelchair accessible stalls, in January.