The Pacific Spirit Park society will discuss suggestions for the owners and developers of the contested Block F on the University Endowment Lands on Wednesday.
The 22-acres parcel known as Block F was returned to Musqueam in 2008 as part of a larger agreement between the Musqueam Band and the Province of British Columbia. The band decided to develop the parcel, which borders on Acadia Road and University Boulevard. It hired the planning company Colliers International, and has held two open houses so far. All three site planning options presented on Feb. 6 contained a dense neighbourhood with townhouses, high rises, retail and a 120-bed hotel. The plans include three acres of mature conifer trees and wetlands.
“They say sustainability is a driving force. But we don’t see much of that in the plan,” said Shelagh Dodd, PSPS board member. “The loss of the parkland was upsetting, but now we have to move forward.”
When the Musqueam band received the land, it was already zoned for development, said Wade Grant, the band’s councillor. ”That parcel has been forested a few times in the last century. So it’s not old growth. I’m not trying to say that it’s not an ecological area, but it has been logged before.”
Block F of great ecological value
According to the society, Block F has a great value connecting the northern and southern parts of Pacific Spirit Park through recreational trails. The ecological value is even greater. The land contains several 100-year old conifers, said Dodd. The wetlands feed three different streams that flow through the park. One is the fish-bearing Cutthroat Creek, and two creeks flow to Spanish Banks. Migratory birds need the trees to rest and the wetlands for food supply. “Even visually, the green corridor creates an impact on the park,” said Dodd.
The Musqueam Indian band currently has a population of 1,300 people, half of which live on the reserve south of Southwest Marine Drive, said Grant, who added the band needs funds to build more housing. “Economic development through land development is one way of getting those funds,” he said.
Grant stressed the band is continuing the legacy of its elders. “They were the ones that had gone through so much strive to gain access to lands that were taken away from us originally,” he said. “So they had always had a vision for the future that Musqueam would be self-sufficient and prosperous.”
Hotel most controversial building
One of the most controversial topics discussed among visitors of the open house was the plan for a 120-bedroom hotel.
“It’s an idea that we’ve been told [by Colliers] could be viable, because of the lack of hotel space in and around this area,” said Grant. “The nearest hotels are in downtown and that’s quite a commute.”
“What advantages will the hotel have on us as UEL residents?” said Dodd, who added the UBC could build a hotel on its own lands. “The UEL is not Vancouver, and it is not the UBC,” said Dodd. “People who move here, don’t seem to know that.”
Block F to become a new Wesbrook Village?
“I think we want to make sure that any development incorporates what the feel is around the neighbourhood. And we want to make sure that it doesn’t clash or stand out as something different,” said Grant. “We do look at those sort of areas as templates that we can build upon.”
Speak up on PlaceSpeak
A detailed overview of the plans and a public forum can be accessed at PlaceSpeak. Here’s an example of some of the voices:
“Block F’ is already part of a park, as some have already noted. While I respect the Musqueam Band’s rights, I’m disappointed they are developing Pacific Spirit Park for profit,” posted Peter Barber, who lives with his young family in Acadia Park.
Sean Bohle, who lives on Acadia Road, wrote “To all those who resent the loss of the forest I ask, “why should we prevent the Musqueam from developing their lands?” After vast swaths of their traditional territory has been logged and built upon by settle communities, it seems ridiculous to then say “no you can’t cut down trees on those 22 acres, I jog there”.
Story and photos by Katja De Bock