A $1-billion private health club, complete with a spa, squash courts, hockey rinks, a movie theatre and a 22-storey condo hotel, is being proposed for the city's west side by a local developer calling it the "largest sporting and social club in North America." The upscale Edworthy Club would be built just south of the Trans-Canada Highway, between Sarcee Trail and the Bow River. Its developer is seeking approval for land-use changes within the next five months. "It's a Dubai type of project. We want the biggest and the best in the world," said Martin Dolemo, whose Dolemo Developments has built projects in several Calgary communities. Dolemo proposes a two-million-square-foot facility to be built on about five hectares of a 19-hectare site, featuring 16 squash courts, two hockey rinks, an auditorium, a conference centre, a spa and wellness centre, a 400-unit condo hotel and some 130,000 square feet of workout space, including three gyms, a running track, tennis courts (10 indoor and seven rooftop) as well as five swimming pools. The facility will be private, with a goal of up to 10,000 members. Other amenities are to include six restaurants, stores, an art gallery, music and computer training rooms, a car wash, a nursery and an 11,000-square-foot indoor playground. "This will be a place where everyone in the family can enjoy themselves . . . but stay together under one roof. It keeps the family together," Dolemo said. "And even though it's private, it will free up public space. People from Springbank, for instance, may no longer want to go to the Westside Rec Centre." But surrounding communities and conservationists fear the project's scale and location are inappropriate for a wildlife corridor adjacent to the Bow River. David Baker, planning director for the Montgomery Community Association, says the project takes away from the public realm, from the view of the river valley, which is something he says belongs to everyone. "It's tall, it's massive, it's quite out of context for a river valley . . . a rather mundane piece of glass-and-concrete architecture, which is quite oversized and inappropriate." Niki Smyth, a member of the society of Bowness Residents, says she opposes the project simply because of its location along the river. "It's a huge footprint -- 20-plus storeys on top of a private club, inside of a wildlife corridor . . . where there's all kinds of wildlife, flora and fauna." Mac Hickley, manager of the Parks Foundation's river valleys committee, says he'd rather see the 19 hectares be dedicated to open public park space with an improved pathway system. "Even though the area they plan to develop is flatter, open space, it's still an important part of the habitat, the habitat area of Edworthy Park continues to this site. "Animals need that meadow and flatter land, too." But Dolemo argues his company is doing everything possible to ensure minimal impact on the site, proposing to use only 28 per cent and leaving vegetation undisturbed. Mike Gavan, a project consultant for Dolemo, adds that environmental assessment studies have been done by the developer showing the lands are a brownfield site, formerly housing a brick factory and an auto-wrecker. "When we build, we will exceed all regulations placed on us," Gavan said. Hickley adds that increased traffic to and from the site may pose problems, particularly for neighbouring communities who may get shortcutting. Other groups are also concerned the recreational features won't be available to the public. Perry Cavanaugh, president of the Calgary Minor Hockey Association, said he wouldn't want the two hockey arenas closed off to public groups such as minor hockey leagues that need more ice. "There's a huge demand for ice in this city. For us, it's all about getting as much as we can as quickly as we can." Dolemo confirmed he wouldn't provide public access to his rinks, explaining that use of those facilities would free up other arenas. "I'm well aware there is an ice shortage . . . but I'm not here to solve all of the city's problems for them." No date has yet been set for Dolemo's application to redesignate the land from an urban reserve to a direct control district, but it is expected to go before the Calgary Planning Commission within five months. Once the planning commission debates the proposal, it will go before a public hearing of city council, allowing communities, environmentalists and any other parties to speak to it. firstname.lastname@example.org
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