Frances Bula header image 2

Why can’t everyone at the Olympic village use the Gold Medal fitness centre? Like the people in the rental and co-op buildings?

Q. Can you tell me if you have any further information on the Gold Medal Club in the Olympic Village? The city rental buildings (2) and the Coop (1) are not allowed access to that fitness centre. With strata fees going up 30% in some buildings, you’d think the city of Vancouver would be eager to allow these 3 building to contribute and be part of the community we are helping to build.

A. Okay, I’m not even going to make a pretence of doing any research on this. I’m just going to suggest that, based on my knowledge of the way the world works, it would be highly unusual to sell people condos and charge them a premium price that they’re told includes use of an exclusive club and then throw the doors open to everyone living in the buildings around.

I’m not quite sure why you think the rental and co-op buildings should have access to this. Perhaps you could clarify. (Is it because the city bought out the health-club contract so you think that, damn, it’s my tax dollars and I want in? But on that basis, the whole city should be invited to use the facilities.)

And, if it comes to community-building, don’t you all down there have a gorgeous $30-million, somewhat underused community centre that you could all come together in.

Am I missing something? Or was this a parody question? Or what? Olympic village aficionadoes, please weigh in.

  • Stephen X

    “base on my knowledge of the way the world works”

    As opposed to how it may or could work. Frances, although the question appears loaded, respectfully, your response is as socially positioned as the question. Which in the context of Vancouver, at this time, is sad to see from a journalist that attempts to elicit ideas of a better city for all people.

  • Frances Bula

    @Stephen X. Instead of using snotty communications-school language that reminds me what a pathetic person I am for not being as socially aware as you are, why don’t you explain to me why people in the rental buildings should have access to a specialized fitness centre that condo owners pay higher fees for? Is there something wrong with the community centre? Is the concern that the rich condo owners only use their fitness centre and don’t mingle with renters at the community centre? Is there really no other option to create some kind of community togetherness? Perhaps the renters could invite the condo owners to come over for a gathering. I spent part of my childhood socially positioned living in a trailer, so maybe I am too dumb to get this.

  • Piker

    Ha, “Stephen X|, you got served!

  • Stephen X

    Frances, I don’t think my response was particularly any snottier then yours was dismissive. Nor was I trying to suggest anything about you personally.

    From the Olympic Villages conception, and to a greater or lesser extent to its occupation, the City of Vancouver has trying to engineer a socially mixed community. Certainly the physical proximity of different social classes provides the possibility for increased social interaction. However, it seems like a great opportunity to push the concept of inclusivity may be missed by not allowing all members of the community to use this space.

    Should condo owners subsidize renters use of a specialized fitness centre? I’m not sure, but in the context of the conceptualization of the Village (that condo owners bought into on some level) it seems to me to be fair to ask if it could further the social intentions of this development.

  • Leeanne

    Hi Frances,
    I certainly did not intend parody in my question. I live in the Co-op in the Village and pay market rent. While it’s true that there are some subsidized units in our building, we pay more in housing charges to help offset those units.

    I was asking the question because there are market rental buildings in the village that were originally meant to be sold. Due to financial reasons, of which I’m sure you’re aware, the city was ‘forced’ to turn them into market rentals. Earnst & Young are still looking for buyers for some of the other buildings but the Sails building has been permanently taken off the market. The units in that building have access to the Gold Medal Club with no fees added. The city is footing the bill for that I assume, i.e. absorbing strata costs in rents.

    The city wanted a Co-op and rental buildings to be part of the community and wants it to be that, a mixed community, and yet the two rentals and the co-op are excluded from access to the centrally located club. It just doesn’t make sense. And, I disagree that it should mean the entire city should by rights have access. That is just ridiculous.

    Building a socially inclusive community around exclusivity is just wrong.

    As far as the community centre is concerned it is great. It doesn’t have a pool or steam room like this GM Club does. Sadly, the Gold Medal club underused as well. Whenever I or other people I’ve talked to walk by, they barely see a soul in there. It’s a shame. The fact that not all the condos are sold may have something to do with it, but I’ve been here a year and a half now and haven’t seen much change.

    There are members who live in the co-op that pay for memberships at the community centre who would also be willing to do so at the Gold Medal Club.

    My family moved here because we wanted to be part of a socially mixed community in which we could raise our son to be a responsible and caring adult, and we have found that here. It is an amazingly vibrant and friendly place except for the obvious exclusion discussed.

  • Frances Bula

    @Leeanne. Thanks for your long response. Seeing some of the reasoning, I understand the question better. The issue you raise — how to create an inclusive community in a project built to include so much income disparity — is an interesting one. Students I was teaching in a housing course at SFU toured the facility and had their own questions about how inclusive it really is. My understanding is there are rules about who can garden in which places and so on, which enforce a certain segregation as well. It’s not just the club.

    There was also some segregation built right in, because the buildings are separated. There was some discussion of mixing the social-housing units in with the market units, but everyone in charge decided that was just too much of a nightmare in terms of legal agreements and trying to run a strata council.

    But I have to say, in all the years I covered the planning of this, the idea of how to foster social inclusivity, other than just throwing everyone together in a small area and hoping that they would start talking, was not really discussed. The time pressure of the Olympics, the environmental goals, the money, the decisions about how to build the social housing and so on all took precedence.

    That’s certainly something that people watching the planning of the NEXT mega-project (additions to the village, Little Mountain, etc.) should try to push the city on.

    When it comes to the gym, I’m still not sure how much inclusivity it would provide. I do see your economic argument — why should people in the market rentals get it as part of the rental and you don’t. The city did buy out the Gold Club, but did not give it to buyers as a freebie. City managers, from my understanding, just thought it could be run differently, more efficiently, in order to provide a benefit the condo buyers expected, but at a lower price. I’d have to look at all the numbers, though, to understand it all. Has anyone tried pitching the city on the idea of allowing everyone to use the facility if they’re willing to pay the fees? Though that still is going to exclude people.

    I’m not living down there, so I don’t know how much of a sore point the Gold Club is, but I do feel as though there are so many other opportunities to try to connect. I don’t quite get the Gold Club thing and your belief that somehow it’s going to foster togetherness. I belong to the Y and also go to my local community centre. I have never connected with anyone at either place. It seems to me that there needs to be something beyond just letting everyone into the gym. (And do people in the condos really never use the community centre?) I know that people at Woodward’s have tried to foster a more inclusive atmosphere in their block. It doesn’t always work, as the people who bought into the lower tower and the people who bought into the higher tower seem to be two very different camps.

    Anyway, as you can tell, I’m just starting to ramble here. But I think talking about how to create social inclusivity in these kinds of new, created neighbourhoods is a topic worth bringing up.

  • Leeanne

    Thank you for your equally long response 😉

    The Olympic Village community is a unique one. I have lived in Vancouver most of my life and have never been part of a community of people so eager to involve themselves in it and with each other. The fact that you have never connected with anyone as you say is not surprising to me as I have had similar experiences. But I also know that I didn’t make the effort like I do now.

    But, when a community like this is put together intentionally to be inclusive, to bring together people of different income levels and abilities, it’s going to attract those that want that experience of getting to know their neighbours. To see this example of segregation shows a lack of planning and understanding of what it takes to build a community like this.

    ‘My understanding is there are rules about who can garden’
    This is not entirely true. In order to garden in the community garden next to the dog park and Hinge Park, you must be a resident of the Village. That is all. It is an effective way to bring people together that live in this community. Well planned, that.

    ‘Has anyone tried pitching the city…’ This is in process.

    And this is why I bring this topic to you Frances. You published an article a while back, (I’m not able to find that article without being a G&M subscriber).that mentioned the mortgage on the club being forgiven. It started me thinking and trying to find out more about why the Co-op and the two rental buildings, who pay taxes and fees to the city as well, are not able to use the club.

    By the way, many of the buildings already have fitness facilities themselves which may be why the Gold Medal Club is infrequently used. So, in effect, those buildings have 3 options: their on site facility, the Gold Medal Club and the community centre.

    Our building doesn’t happen to have the space for that.

  • Bill Smolick

    > The Olympic Village community is a unique one.

    I keep hearing this, but I see no evidence of it. There are people with money and people with less. There are renters and owners. Bob Kronbauer writes glowingly about it.

    It’s pretty much like everything in Vancouver (or like Ambleside or Lower Lonsdale for that matter.)

    What’s so special?

    If the Gold Medal Club is part of the strata, the strata would have to vote to allow its use. Not even the City can compel them to rent the use of their private property.

  • Drew

    @Frances it’s all about the pool! I just moved into the coop and saw the pool. I want to use it. The Creekside Community center doesn’t have one.

    I searched for the Gold Medal club and this is one of the first hits. I’m rather disappointed in how this question was handled here, since I’m obviously sympathetic to the other low-class people that just want to swim.