Residents packed into St. Andrew’s Church on Thursday afternoon to get a first look at some major developments in Fort Langley.
The Kwantlen First Nation and Township of Langley unveiled concepts for a new cultural centre and museum, restoration and relocation of the Jacob Haldi House, and affordable housing for artists, during an open house on Feb. 8.
The cultural centre and museum, to be located on the corner of King Street and Mavis Avenue, will be funded from the sale of Township lands, and have been years in the making, said Peter Tulumello, Township director of arts, culture and community initiatives.
“The whole idea is that we have several properties across from the museum … between Royal and King Streets — we own the entire block,” Tulumello said.
“That has been collected over quite a number of years for the purpose of something like a museum or a cultural centre. I think it was way back in the 1970s that this started happening. Now we need to be able to leverage those properties so that we can build a museum without a cost to the taxpayer.”
The properties will be developed into market housing to help fund the new cultural centre, which will incorporate both an Indigenous and community museum. The architecture will embody First Nation traditions.
“We’re presenting a style for the museum that is based on non-colonial tradition — rather, First Nation tradition. So that’s the change that we’re making to the heritage. It’s based on nature as well as basketry, and that’s important to the Kwantlen First Nation,” Tulumello said.
It will also pay tribute to lost architecture from the Kwantlen people, said Brenda Fernie, member of the Kwantlen First Nation and vice president of the Seyem Qwantlen Business Group.
“Many people don’t know that on our reserve in Fort Langley on McMillan Island there was once a longhouse, a pretty significant longhouse. And so the design of the new museum is meant to mimic what our traditional longhouse looked like,” she said.
The Jacob Haldi House, which is currently sitting in the centre of the Bedford House, will be moved east and elevated above the floodplain. The heritage home used to be at street level on Glover Road, until the Jacob Haldi Bridge was constructed and the street was moved.
“The whole idea is we are going to give it new prominence in a location that lifts it off the floodplain and is then factored into a community amenity,” Tulumello said.
“So the idea being that there would be a gallery, a reception space on the bottom that could be booked. There will be office and studio space above, and paddling and rowing below.”
It will also become home to the Coast Salish Arts and Culture Society, a group that promotes arts and culture with Indigenous people.
At the Jacob Haldi House’s current location, the Kwantlen First Nation are proposing to build affordable artist live-work spaces on the waterfront to support local artists, athletes, musicians, actors, writers and other creatives. Titled ‘stey’ — Kwantlen’s traditional word for ‘canoe race’ — the Seyem Qwantlen Business Group is working with BC Housing to have it funded through the Kwantlen First Nation’s Non-Profit Housing Society.
“Our community has always been a really big supporter of arts and culture and recreation. So with this affordable housing project, it will be open to anyone to apply to live there. And it’s for people who have dedicated their lives to arts, culture and recreation. And we felt that was reflective of the values of people in Fort Langley,” Fernie said.
“We’ll have a selection committee to find the best applicants so that they can continue to work on their trade and not have the pressures of what housing is now.”
They have recently starting looking into the possibility adding a hotel component as well, similar to Skwachàys Lodge in Vancouver, Fernie added.
“We were really intrigued by the concept,” she said. “Skwachàys Lodge is a hotel and it’s a non-profit. So for three years, an artist can stay for no cost. All of the proceeds of the hotel go to support those artists so that they can continue to work on their trade. In the basement of the hotel, they all are given studio space. And then the gift store in the hotel includes all of the art that the residents are making so they have space to sell their art. So with that we are looking at a concept lodge, we’ve named it the ‘stey Lodge’ as well, so that would go to offset the cost of the rental as well.”
Now that all of the concepts have been unveiled to the public, Fernie is excited to hear residents’ feedback.
“Our elders have been here in Fort Langley their whole life. We often hear from our elders, they talk about times during the ’60s and ’70s where they really felt part of Kwantlen. And I think Fort Langley has just grown so quickly that some people don’t even know that we’re here in their own backyard, and I think that Kwantlen has a lot to offer. So the feedback that we’re hearing from our elders, they feel like this is bringing them back to be part of Fort Langley again,” she said.
“By everybody working collaboratively, it’s really exciting for us, so we hope others see the same benefits. With the museum project, I can imagine people coming. They can stay in the lodge, they can buy art directly from the artists living in the studios, they can enjoy the riverfront.
“I just think what a wonderful experience for someone to come and spend the weekend here. This is the birthplace of B.C., we should be showing it off. And I think this is an opportunity for Fort Langley to really come together.”
The final cost of the project has not yet been determined as it is still in “the preliminary concept stage,” Tulumello said.
For more information on the Fort Langley Project, and to fill out the online feedback survey, visit www.tol.ca/flp. The survey must be completed by Feb. 16.