Eyesore or part of the attraction? Old buildings in Fort Langley could be torn down
A green space is being proposed to replace the buildings from the 1950s and 1960s
Several buildings are being considered for demolition in the historic site of Fort Langley and that has some local business owners riled up — but the owner of the land says the community is better off without the old boarded-up buildings.
The buildings, which have been boarded up for the last year and a half, are located along the historic areas of Glover, Mary and Church streets. A park is being proposed as an interim solution for the land until further developments go ahead.
"To demolish all these buildings and to put up another green space is not what the downtown business core needs," said Jasmine Marjanovic, who owns a nearby cranberry business.
Marjanovic said it's the town's old-time feel that attracts visitors — not its parks — and she often sees people taking pictures in front of the buildings in question.
"We're known for heritage, people love coming and experiencing that," she told CBC's On The Coast.
She wants the buildings to remain — or something similar to replace them.
Eric Woodward, a councillor with the township of Langley and director of a foundation in his name, owns the buildings.
Woodward wants the buildings torn down and a green space established — at least in the short term.
He hopes to eventually redevelop the land and build a combination of commercial and residential buildings and parking, similar to some new developments in the area from 2015.
None of the buildings slated for demolition has an official historic designation, however.
"These are old buildings from the 1950s and 1960s, mostly, without any of the heritage value that [Jasmine] Marjanovic was referencing," Woodward said.
"They are simply not going to contribute anything meaningful, they're actually detracting."
The one historical building he owns is set to be restored.
Despite being a sitting councillor who owns the buildings, he says there is no conflict of interest because he has to recuse himself from voting on the issue and can't lobby for redevelopment.
Marjanovic said she's not against new developments, she just wants to see something else replace what it torn down.
"If you're going to take something down, then replace it with something else," she said.
"This green space doesn't do that."
Wood believes a greenspace would enhance the community, citing a couple of similar parks that were recently added to the area.
"The green space has been one of the magnets that adds to the character of the village versus a boarded up building," he said.
And, he added, the green space would be a stop-gap measure until some else could be built there.
But redevelopment and construction permits take time to go through municipal and construction bureaucracy.
"Some of the buildings that we're proposing to remove could take up to five years before construction can commence," Woodward said.
"We don't think it's responsible to leave them in their current state for that period of time."
With files from On The Coast