Cambridge council approves another step in recreation complex project

Cambridge is one step closer to building its long-awaited multiplex.

City council gave its approval Tuesday to continue the design development process for the Cambridge Recreation Complex and Idea Exchange library.

The city said it will be one of two buildings on a 32.5 acre plot of land, near the intersection of Dundas Street South and Branchton Road, in the south end of the city.

"All of council and our city is really excited to  bring this project forward and finally get the sports facilities and updated facilities that the city's been asking for," said Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry.

According to officials, the 125,000 square foot net-zero cabron design facility will be the biggest construction project the city has ever undertaken.

In a media release, the city said it "plans to issue an RFQ (Request for Quotation) as soon as possible to procure design architects who will complete two concepts of graduated value and undertake public consultation."

Council will then need to approve the design and budget.

MORE: The long road to Southpoint: Looking back at five years of planning the Cambridge multiplex 

According to the city's website, the recreation complex will include a swimming and leisure pool, gyms, running track, multi-purpose rooms, and a branch of IDEA Exchange/Cambridge Public Library.

A childcare facility, a public and Catholic elementary schools are also in the plans, as is a new residential development called Southpoint. It will include 300 single homes, townhouses and apartment buildings.

"This is an essential space that will serve as a true community hub, where people can connect, learn and grow," said McGarry in the media release. "It's about wellbeing and building an overall sense of community. This is an incredible partnership and investing in spaces like this are key to building a thriving, healthy and prosperous city for all."

The city said construction costs have gone up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues, and world events. They added these continue to pose a problem for large projects, like the Cambridge recreation complex.

The initial cost was projected at $66 million, but has jumped to $101 million.

A smaller $84 million option with a smaller pool an no running track will also be considered, while a cheaper $71 million plan was a non-starter for council.

"We certainly flew that last one out," said McGarry. "It certainly wasn't going to meet the community's needs in terms of the number of gyms that was needed, the walking track and some of the ammenity space that the community told us that they wanted."

To pay for the project, McGarry adds that the city will lobby upper levels of governments for grants and will also be looking at development charges and issuing debts to foot the bill.

The city hopes to have an architect on board by mid-July and present detailed designs for the complex by early 2023.

Construction is expected to be complete by 2025.