British Columbia

Musqueam Indian Band breaks ground on residential development

The Musqueam Indian Band will work with Polygon to develop prime acreage it received in a land transfer by the former B.C. Liberal government in 2008.

The Musqueam have picked Polygon to work on development in University Endowment Lands

Musqueam elders put shovels in the ground to signal the start of a multi-use development that will be built in two phases over the next 10 years. (Belle Puri/CBC )

The Musqueam Indian Band says it has taken a significant step towards economic sustainability by breaking ground on a 8.4-hectare community in the University Endownment Lands

The First Nation has chosen Polygon Homes as the developer for the first phase of a residential development called Lelem, which is the Musqueam word for home. 

Over the next 10 years, the development will include four 18-storey highrises, a 12-storey rental building, and a mix of low-rise buildings and townhouses. 

Once completed, it will house up to 2,500 people. 

The band's economic development arm — the Musqueam Capital Corporation — will oversee the project and be responsible for building roads, services and parks.

Green space 

Musqueam Capital Corporation officials say approximately 3.2 hectares will be available as publicly-accessible parks, trails and wetlands. 

The triangle of land sits between University Boulevard on the north and east and Acadia Road to the south and west. (Musqueam Capital Corporation )

 "We didn't approach this in terms of trying to nail every square foot of density, " said Musqueam Capital Corporation CEO Stephen Lee. 

 "This was all about preserving the open space because one of our Musqueam tenets is about respect for the land. And respect of the land means stewardship of the lands, which means trying to retain as much as we could."

Trees that were removed from the acreage have been re-purposed for use by the Musqueam community. 

"The cedar went to our carvers. The alders and the hardwoods went to our smokers. And the fir went to our longhouse for a cultural event," said Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow, who is also chair of the Musqueam Capital Corporation.

Part of settlement 

The project marks the first time in Metro Vancouver that a First Nation is independently embarking on a comprehensive mixed-use, multi-family development. 

The major difference from other First Nation developments in the region is that the Musqueam project will be built on fee simple land and not on a reserve. 

In 2008, the land was transferred to the Musqueam as part of a reconciliation settlement and benefits agreement with the former B.C. Liberal government. 

Sparrow cited the work of the late Ernest Campbell, a former Musqueam chief.

"It was Chief Ernest Campbell that got this property here in negotiations with Gordon Campbell when he was the premier," said Sparrow.

The land was rezoned in 2016. The project is expected to create 1,900 jobs. 

The project will also feature retail space and a community building. (Belle Puri/CBC)