Renovations to the CPR Steamship building are running between $1.5- and $2 million over budget.
The cost overruns are accruing at the same time as a failed bidding process to lease the building threatens to leave it empty for longer than planned.
“That is what I am concerned about,” said Ida Chong, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. “My conversations with the (Provincial Capital Commission) will be, ‘What are you guys doing to make sure there is not a long-term loss for the building?’”
Last month, the PCC rejected all three of the proponents that submitted proposals to occupy the building, at 463 Belleville St.
The Crown agency, headed by CEO Ray Parks, is now establishing a new process for leasing the building.
His goal is to select tenants by August.
“The timeline hasn’t changed,” said Parks. “What has changed is the amount of work I have to get done in the same period of time. You can bet we’re going to move heaven and earth here to get this done.”
Depending on tenants’ space-improvement schedules, the building should be open to the public sometime in 2012.
Renovations are also due for completion in August.
In November 2009, the provincial and federal governments announced a $3-million contribution to upgrade the building to modern earthquake standards. The March 2011 deadline was extended when work crews discovered more deterioration during the renovation.
“The issue was the floor,” said Chong. “When they ripped up the carpets and saw the floor was in really bad shape, there was no way they could just cover it up.”
Chong would not confirm that the provincial government will cover the extra costs.
“But it is a very important public asset, so it’s not like were going to let the floor deteriorate any worse than it is.”
Meanwhile, Chong has agreed to have her staff “look over concerns” raised about the PCC by Bob Wright.
Wright, of the Oak Bay Marine Group, was one of three parties to submit proposals to lease the CPR Steamship building. He has accused the PCC of mismanaging the building and the request for proposal process, and claims his proposal for a high-tech exhibit highlighting B.C. history was rejected on faulty grounds.
Chong called the RFP process fair.
“It was open, it was transparent,” she said.
Her ministry will examine the PCC “with respect to the PCC board, but not with respect to the RFP proposal,” she said. “If it’s determined that the board was within their right to put it through this process, that is something the board has the authority to do. I don’t believe I’m in a position to overstep how the board made that determination.”