Coulter Berry builder Eric Woodward stands in the geothermal heating room of the new structure

Coulter Berry prepares for official opening in Fort Langley

Reality ‘way better than drawings,’ builder Eric Woodward says

The online announcement of the official opening of the new Coulter Berry building was brief and to the point.

An image showing scissors cutting a ribbon, the date, the building name and one word: “finally.”

The event, open to the public, is set for Saturday, Sept. 17 at 11 a.m. in the rear courtyard of the building at the corner of Glover Road and Mavis in Fort Langley.

Coulter Berry announcement“In the end, we built a pretty good building,” said Eric Woodward, whose proposed three-storey mix of retail, office and residential was put on hold for eight months when opponents took the Township of Langley to court.

Construction of Coulter Berry was halted in 2013 after critics convinced a judge that Township council had violated its own rules by approving a building that was bigger than the maximum size allowed in the heritage conservation area of downtown Fort Langley.

The B.C. Court of Appeal overturned the B.C. Supreme Court decision and declared the Township had acted properly.

“It would be nice if the controversy became part of the past,” Woodward said.

“Hopefully, people don’t harbour bitterness.”

It’s been five years since fire destroyed the former IGA store on the corner where Coulter Berry now stands, he noted.

“Even if you disagree, it’s good to have the corner back up.”

With a few weeks to go before the opening, five retail businesses had already opened, and more were preparing to move in.

Professional offices on the second floor were being prepared for tenants, and all of the nine residential rental suites had been spoken for.

Woodward is pleased with the way the building turned out.

“I think it looks way better than the drawings,” Woodward told a Times reporter during an informal tour on Monday.

Woodward showed off the buildings many features, from smaller touches like the two ceramic plaques that recognize the building namesakes, David Coulter and John Berry, who operated a store on the site in the 1800s (see below), to the unseen geothermal heating and cooling system that will provide all the heating and a portion of the cooling.

“It’s not a complicated concept,” Woodward said as he surveyed the network of piping in the central room that controls the system.

“You send the water into the ground at three degrees and it comes back at 12.”

Eric Woodward with Coulter Better plaque

Just up the street is Woodward’s next likely project, a proposed three-storey complex with a boutique hotel and a courtyard plaza on a 1.39 acre site at Glover Road and Mary Avenue.

Before he submitted the design for municipal approval, Woodward held a community planning session in October, 2015, which was attended by 88 people.

Then there were four presentations of different two- and three-storey concepts at the Fort Langley Community Hall held over three days and attended by more than 500 people.

Woodward then held 19 focus groups with 122 people from Feb. 13 to April 7.

The approach was a result of lessons learned during the drawn-out debate over Coulter Berry, he said.

“It’s a political campaign,” Woodward said.

“We’re learning and getting better at it.”

The Coulter Berry opening will include a “specific dedication” for the people who supported the project, Woodward said.