New designs unveiled for the Fort Langley Community Hall grounds received mixed reviews at an open house on Thursday.
The two concepts — created by van der Zalm + Associates — would see a portion of the front lawn turned into a plaza, complete with more seating and performance space.
“We are wanting to create a place that would draw people to Fort Langley hall — since it’s such a predominant building in Fort Langley — and to create a gathering space that can be used for both events and everyday activities. And also, to kind of set a nice design precedence for future development as well,” said Milana Malesevich, a landscape designer with van der Zalm + Associates.
The hope is that the space in front of the hall will be better utilized by both the public and those hosting events.
“We have a number of users of the outdoor space here who have given us some reason to rethink how the front area is designed so it can become more amenable to some of the public events and different festivals, (from) the Cranberry Festival to weddings and so on,” said Frank Cox, board member with the Fort Langley Community Improvement Society (FLCIS), which is spearheading the project with the Fort Langley Business Improvement Association.
“So these are different concepts that might move us closer to that. There’s been some interest in having a place where it’s more like a town square.”
There is no time frame for when the project will be completed as funding still needs to be secured. The open house is the first step and “the process will dictate the timeline,” said Gareth Abreo, a board member with FLCIS.
“We want to re-establish the community hall as a community hall (and) as a community gathering space,” he said.
Fort Langley resident Richard Bent said out of the two concepts presented, he prefers the second one, but believes either would be a good option.
“I like both concepts because they actually provide more usable space and areas where (people) can gather when they’re visiting around here. Because right now, there’s no spot for anybody to sit with the family,” Bent said.
“I like the fact that there’s a lot of greenery. Both concepts have steps up to the main entrance, which is a very nice feature, but they also accommodate handicapped people because there is wheelchair access, which is an important feature. And just generally, the concept of the big, open use of the space is really good.”
However there are others who disagree.
Doreen Murphy has resided in Fort Langley for 39 years and is very concerned with what may happen to smaller user groups who currently rely on the space for their activities.
“I’m concerned that it will change the greenspace in front of the community hall. The greenspace at the moment we use for car shows, people sitting on the grass picnicking, it used to be used for croquet, we have shade from the big trees around. If they pave it, there will not be the same drainage that we have from the grass (and) it will be a lot hotter than it is now,” she said.
“I’m concerned that it will cost a lot of money to implement any plan at the front when we already have to … move out of the building, or into other parts of the building, to do our regular community things, such as Scottish country dancing, which I do, and my exercise class. We sometimes have to exit the building, go and use another space in Fort Langley because of filming or weddings.”
Nicole Naaykens, who is a former board of director and treasurer with FLCIS, says she is “totally against this project.”
“This is an historical building that needs to have a sense of softness and inclusivity of the whole community,” she said.
“It ought to be available to small groups who want to come here and use the hall for exercises, or clubs, such as the camera club, the Girl Guides (and) the Boy Scouts. (It should) also be available to the community who want to have a small memorial or celebration of life at the last minute, as opposed to being taken over, exclusively almost, by large weddings and movies.
“And care must be taken not to turn the front of this hall into a cement plaza that will probably be used in the evening by a lot of teenagers and young people … as a skateboard plaza. Another important point is, I believe that they will incur a large debt in order to build this. And in order to pay a lot of that debt, regardless of how many people sponsor it financially, that they will increase the use of large paying events, therefore removing it more and more (from) small events in the community.”