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The Globe and Mail

Head of B.C. Pavilion Corp. stepping down

The 36 masts now in place on BC Place in Vancouver February 7, 2011. Renovations to BC Place Stadium should be complete by Sept. 30, 2011, says BC Pavilion Corporation (PavCo).

JOHN LEHMANN/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

David Podmore is about to become just another guy in the stands at B.C. Place. After five years as chairman of B.C. Pavilion Corp, which manages the domed stadium and such other facilities as the new Vancouver Convention Centre, he has decided to step down.

He will be out as chair, effective at the end of September. Mr. Podmore, 63, will leave PavCo's board a few months later after helping with the search for a new chair "The major construction activities of PavCo are complete," he said, explaining his decision.

In 2007, then-premier Gordon Campbell – "a good friend" – recruited Mr. Podmore – chairman and CEO of real-estate developer Concert Properties Ltd. – to apply his insights to the troubled expansion of the Vancouver Convention Centre. "It may sound corny, but when the premier of the province, regardless of the political affiliation, asks you to do something, I believe you have got to make every effort to say yes," said Mr. Podmore, who has done double duty at PavCo and Concert.

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What was your reaction

to critics who have complained about the $563-million revamp at B.C. Place?

Quite frankly, most projects at some point receive some criticism. Truthfully, it really didn't bother me. I believe it was the right thing to have done for our community. I think the investment is a very good solid sound investment, and I frankly don't pay an awful lot of attention to those criticisms. We need this facility, the B.C. Place facility in our community. If we weren't to refurbish it, I am absolutely committed to the fact that we would have to replace it at another location to accommodate all of the users that use that facility. If we didn't replace it or rebuild it, we'd lose that economic activity in our community. It generates about $100-million annually in terms of economic spinoffs so it's an important venue.

Are cost overruns inevitable

in these big projects?

No, they're not. That's one that I take great exception to the way that it's portrayed. B.C. Place was done properly. We prepared a preliminary estimate of $350-million, not a budget, an estimate and we said what we need to do is go forward and complete the full design and engineering and need to then tender all of the components of the project, get a price, establish a fixed-price contract and then decide whether to proceed or not to proceed, and that's exactly what we did. As a result of that, we came up with a budget of $563-million, and it's the reason the government took three more months than was expected to make a decision as to whether to proceed or not to proceed, and that is the right way to manage these projects. We didn't go in the ground until we had a fixed price contract and knew all of our costs, and we could have abandoned the project at that point if the province decided that was too expensive and they didn't want to proceed. Fortunately, we delivered the project at $514-million, well below the $563-million budget.

I was thinking of the new

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convention centre.

Well, the convention centre didn't follow that process and I wasn't involved in the early phases of the convention centre. I was involved when they began to get into trouble, and they proceeded without a fixed-price contract in place, and without a firm budget.

You have obvious experience in real estate. What do you say to newcomers to the region who are undergoing sticker shock at the high prices of housing?

I would advise people, if they have the equity that is needed to buy a reasonably priced home to try and get involved and purchase at as early an opportunity as they can, but not to overextend themselves. That might mean tradeoffs in terms of where they might be located.

What about affordability

for young people trying

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to get into the housing market?

It's a huge challenge.

I have four grown children. Three of them are married, and one about to be married. It's one of their biggest challenges, the ability to afford a home, and they have to work very hard to find something that's a fit.

I encourage them not to be overly rigid, make some tradeoffs that allow you to get into the market, but not take on more debt than is prudent.

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