Marpole residents could have a new park to enjoy now that Musqueam First Nations have successfully purchased two acres of land previously plotted for condo development.
Century Group, a real estate development company, was granted a permit to begin constructing a five-story mixed residential and commercial project at the Marpole Midden site in 2011, but after human remains were found, construction was halted.
A new park for south Vancouver residents?
Cecilia Point, the Musqueam community spokeswoman, said that they are discussing with the City of Vancouver the possibility of zoning the site as a park.
“We do have a vision of it being a really nice, serene memorial site,” she said.
“To me, it would be so beautiful to have people enter from the airport and see a sign that says ‘welcome to Musqueam territory’ and ‘this is where our ancestors are lying.’”
Before the land can be transformed into a park, Point said their needs to be an environmental cleanup because of the construction materials and debris from previous businesses that have occupied the space, which could take over a year to complete.
Century Group president Sean Hodgins said that all building materials have been completely moved from the site and all deposits for pre-sold units have been paid back with interest.
This was a major financial hit for the company, but Hodgins said they felt they were doing the right thing by selling the land back to the Musqueam First Nation.
“One thing I’ve learned is sometimes a small loss is the best thing you can expect in business,” he said.
“We could see that the issue was very important to the Musqueam people,”
Negotiations come to a respectful close
Hodgins said the big turning point was when the government got involved and although negotiations took well over a year, both parties are happy with the final result.
In a media release put out by Musqueam First Nation, Chief Wayne Sparrow said, “The successful resolution of the development plans for these lands demonstrates First Nations and private property owners can work together to understand each other’s interests, and conduct business in a respectful way.”
Point said she hopes that similar situations can be avoided in the future.
“I just really hope that what we did was a precedent setting and that it will protect other first nations sacred sites and burial sites.”
Reported by Brenna Brooks and Kristen Harpula