Several buildings in downtown Fort Langley were demolished this week on land to be transferred to the Kwantlen First Nation reserve.
Four buildings, two on Glover Road and two on nearby Church Street, have been knocked down, said Eric Woodward, a Township councillor. The lands are part of a parcel to be transferred from Woodward’s foundation to the Kwantlen First Nation’s reserve lands.
A backhoe was moving debris from the buildings by Tuesday morning for eventual removal. Woodward said the initial phase of the removal of the buildings should be complete by the end of the week.
After that, the land will be turned into green space, as the corner lot at Church and Glover has been for more than a year.
“As outlined to council, we will be restoring this property as a whole to all new grassed areas, a new, expanded play area, site-wide fencing, and additional picnic tables, all for public use,” Woodward told the Langley Advance Times. “That work should be complete by September, perhaps October, or so.”
Once the landscaping is complete, the site could be used for fundraising and other special events, Woodward said.
“Given the current limitations in place due to the pandemic, however, that may indeed continue to be quite limited for now,” Woodward said.
The sites have a complicated history. Owned for some time by Woodward’s company, they were part of a lengthy wrangle over a development plan. Woodward blamed Township bureaucracy for stymieing progress on new buildings on the Glover and Church site, and on another site to the north.
In early 2018, Woodward withdrew his development plans for both sites. That summer, he announced that his lands in Fort Langley’s downtown would be turned over to a charitable foundation, which would also pursue redevelopment.
An earlier attempt in 2019 to demolish the buildings resulted in a contentious public hearing, with some calling for the removal of the buildings, and others calling for their preservation on aesthetic and historic grounds. None of the buildings has an official heritage designation, and most dated back to the 1940s and 1950s.
Then this past March, the Kwantlen First Nation, Fort Langley Properties, and the Eric Woodward Foundation announced that the three acres of the two downtown sites would be transferred to the first nation, eventually to become the first new reserve lands for the KFN in generations.
Once transferred, the KFN will have authority over zoning and redevelopment, rather than Langley Township.
Around the same time, Township council approved the possible demolition of properties on those sites when it voted to allow a heritage alteration permit – needed in the Fort village to receive a demolition permit. The Township will retain authority over the sites until the transfer to the Kwantlen is approved, a process that could take two years.
The buildings on the second site could also be demolished, if a proposal for future development is put forward.