Three First Nations buy final piece of Jericho Lands

The Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations already own federal portion of lands with Canada Lands Company

Three Lower Mainland First Nations have purchased the final 38.8-acre piece of the Jericho Lands for $480 million and now have control over the majority of the entire 90-acre property, the Courier has learned.

The Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations will announce Friday that they finalized a deal with the provincial government after negotiating a price based on two appraisals of the land’s worth for redevelopment.

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The deal comes after the three Nations announced in October 2014 that they partnered with federal Crown corporation Canada Lands Company to buy the 52-acre federal parcel of the former Department of National Defence property for $237 million.

The deal with Canada Lands is a 50-50 split, whereas the three Nations own 100 per cent of the provincial parcel. Together, the property, which covers 90 acres between West Fourth Avenue and West Broadway, is arguably the most expensive and sought-after real estate in Canada.

Squamish Chief Ian Campbell confirmed the deal and said the three Nations were happy to have the land returned to them. Campbell said the land was once a village to the Squamish called Iyelmexw.

“In fact, the descendants of all three Nations would be connected to that part of our shared territories,” Campbell told the Courier by telephone Thursday. “We’re coming home and it’s quite exciting.”

Campbell said it was too early to determine any concrete plans for the property but said it will include housing and incorporate the history of the three Nations.

“I see an opportunity for branding and to celebrate the West Coast that we all love — the connection to the water, the mountains and adding layers to that with our mythology and our history and our ambience around visual presence of Coast Salish art forms,” he said. “Those are all opportunities that are exciting to apply our history. As opposed to any other development in the city, we could bring something that is new and built off of ancient platforms.”

The lands will be developed in accordance with the city’s zoning and official community plans. Mayor Gregor Robertson, who continues to push for more affordable housing in Vancouver, has called for a mix of housing on the lands. He told the Urban Land Institute in a speech in June 2015 that it should not solely be “an enclave for the wealthy.”

Told of Robertson’s comment, Campbell said “there’s an opportunity to begin the dialogue, to understand what the city would like around affordable housing. We also have needs within our communities for affordable housing, as well. So I think that those opportunities to work, live and play in that area will be quite exciting as we begin developing.”

The three Nations will now embark on what is expected to be a lengthy process of meeting with city planners, politicians and the public to determine what should be developed on the property, which has spectacular views of the ocean and sits across the street from Jericho Beach Park.

“The sooner we can meet with the city, the better,” said Campbell, noting it could take two to three years to complete the rezoning process with the city. “That way, a lot of the anxiety that might be heightened at this time with people wondering what could occur down there, I think we can try and continue with communications so that we’re able to let people know what the process entails.”

The Jericho Hill Centre, the Jericho Hill Gym and Pool and the West Point Grey Academy have leases on the land that expire in 2020. The Jericho Garrison is also on the property.The B.C. government said in a February news release that any future planning of the lands would be done simultaneously to allow for a cohesive plan for redevelopment. In the same release, Vancouver-Quilchena Liberal MLA Andrew Wilkinson said development of the lands “could help improve much needed housing supply in Vancouver by increasing the amount of land available for future use."

mhowell@vancourier.com

@Howellings

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