A federal Crown corporation and three First Nations have announced a "historic" joint venture that will see the two sides split control over three former Government of Canada properties in Vancouver.
Canada Lands Company and the three First Nations – the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations – will have equal ownership interest in the properties, which include the 21-hectare Jericho Lands in Vancouver's West Point Grey neighbourhood that the Government of Canada sold for $237-million.
The other two are the Heather Street Lands – an 8.5-hectare former Public Works and Government Services Canada property that sold for $59.2-million – and 4160 Marine Drive, a two-hectare, former Department of Fisheries and Oceans property that sold for $11-million.
There are no preconceived plans for the site, according to a joint news release issued Wednesday: "Consultations and engagement will begin, plans prepared, support and approvals sought, and finally the sites will be developed over a number of years."
Chief Wayne Sparrow of the Musqueam Indian Band said in a statement the development partnership "again demonstrates the growing strength of our First Nations in the Lower Mainland taking back our rightful place in advancing the economy of B.C."
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson told reporters that while it is good to see three First Nations forging a partnership, extensive community feedback and consultation will be needed going forward – particularly with the Jericho Lands. When asked what he would like to see on those lands, the mayor said it would be up to the people of Vancouver.
"[There is] no doubt going to be some change there," he said. "Obviously, our needs focus on affordable housing, making sure there's green space. I think those are general concerns that will be raised. There needs to be a good process around this. This is a big change and it's good to see the First Nations participating directly in this."
David Eby, MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey, said he was heartened to learn that a deal had been made regarding the Jericho Lands.
"There had been a lot of people in the community, myself included, that believed this land would be tied up in negotiations – potentially in court – for many years," he said. "There's a very clear and well-established traditional use of this land by First Nations. They were certainly entitled to it and it sounds like they received a fair share of their lands. It was certainly a surprise to hear that it has happened at all, let alone so quickly."
Mr. Eby said the significance for the community he represents is that development will proceed faster than many anticipated.
"I would not be understating it to say that many members of the community that are neighbours to this property are incredibly concerned about the type of development that could potentially be located at this site," he said.
"I can tell you everybody from affordable housing advocates to environmental groups … to the West Point Grey Homeowners' Association has weighed in with different perspectives about what should happen here. That consultation will be challenging, but it's critically important that it happen."