Kitchener considers changes to Rockway Centre

The City of Kitchener will be considering a number of potential changes to the Rockway Community Centre later this month.

The fate of the Rockway Community Centre remains in the balance.

The City of Kitchener has been considering a number of potential changes to the Rockway Community Centre.

One of the recommendations made in a Thursday report by city staff is to hold off on making a decision until the city has had more time to explore Rockway's potential for a private-public partnership for redevelopment.

If implemented, it would see the Rockway Centre transformed into a medium- to high-density residential building, while retaining a city-operated community centre for seniors on the main floor. The vision also includes retail space for doctor and dental offices.

Rockway is located in Coun. Frank Etherington's ward, and he favours the public-private partnership to revamp Rockway redevelopment.

"I can see that being very attractive to both a developer and to the seniors," he said.

"The one advantage of the public-private [partnership] is that it could happen in four or five or maybe six years. If we go to any of the other options ... it could take up to 10 years," says Etherington, who campaigned in the 2010 election on a promise to save Rockway.

8 options under consideration

The city has proposed eight options for the future of the Rockway Centre, including one to move the centre's older adult programming to the Forest Heights Community Centre, in Coun. Bil Ioannidis' ward.

But if the city's Thursday recommendations are adopted by council, a decision on those options would be deferred pending a search for a public-private partnership.

Ioannidis initially said he would like to see that programming moved to Forest Heights. However, he now says he's open to studying all options around Rockway's future.

Ioannidis said he will bring forward an amendment to the staff recommendation. He said it will be aimed at getting some form of private-public partnership discussion started for expansion of other community centres in the city, including Forest Heights.

"If we're going to go down that line and do that process for the Rockway site, it should be also available for the Forest Heights site as well," he said.

"If you can do it at Rockway, you can do it at Forest Heights."

Another recommendation by staff is to recognize the historical significance of the Rockway Gardens, and have it designated under the province's heritage act.

Additionally, staff suggests the Rockway Centre be listed in the municipal heritage register. That move would provide the structure with some protection and specify heritage requirements for developers to consider for proposals to redevelop the building.

Staff also recommends continuing to maintain the Rockway facility to a reasonable standard until a long-term vision is put into place.

Council will deal with the recommendations pertaining to Rockway on May 27th.