Hope’s station house, which has long sat empty along Old Hope Princeton Way, will be torn down in the new year.
Hope Mayor Peter Robb confirmed that the district will be going out with a request for proposals for demolition of the building in January. The demolition was part of the settlement with the province that saw the district receive $650,000 after plans to transfer the land to the district failed due to a lack of First Nations consultation.
“So staff is going to start the ball rolling in that in January, to put it out there for an RFP on demolition, and it has to come down,” Robb said.
In a statement, media relations person with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Danielle Pope said the ministry “engaged with the Chawathil First Nation to determine their interest in the future operation of the Hope Station House, and have learned the Chawathil First Nation is not interested in doing so.”
As neither the district or Chawathil are interested in future operations of the station house Pope said, the district will proceed with plans to remove it.
The land the station house sits on is provincial and leased to the district. Plans to transfer the land were stymied in 2018 as the district learned the ministry had failed to consult First Nations with historical ties and claims to the area. The district then insisted on reimbursement of the funds they had spent on the project, which included architectural drawings and cost estimates.
In July, Robb confirmed the district had received $650,000 in the settlement, which could go towards a new museum and visitors centre. For the time being, the visitors centre is housed in a trailer, while the items from the museum have been moved elsewhere. The former home of the visitors centre, a green A-frame on Water Avenue, was torn down in October and a to-be-completed district-wide facilities master plan will assist in the decision of what happens next with visitors services and the Water Avenue site.
The station house itself is not movable Robb said, as the basement added when it was moved to the site would make this nearly impossible. The only way to move it would be to take all the pieces of the building apart in pieces and put it back together, and the building has deteriorated over the years.
Robb said he really wants to see the corner lot developed, and soon. “It’s a huge, major gateway to our community and it’s been sitting like that for so many years,” he said.
“There will be some people, because of the history of the old station house, that won’t be happy. But if the right person gets in there and develops that, that would be awesome to clean up that corner.”
Sharon Blythe is one of those people unhappy about the decision to demolish what she says is Hope’s second oldest building built in 1916. “Besides the Anglican Church, there’s nothing that old. And it just seems to me that it’s a damn shame that it’s being demolished,” she said. While in her younger years she said she would chain herself to the door and not let it happen, nearing 80 years old now Blythe said there is not much use of complaining about the demolition. “But I’m not happy about it,” she said.
Blythe was involved in the station house after it was moved to its current site in the mid-1980s. The building then housed an art and theatre space, a tea house and space for workshops, rehearsals and storage.
In 2014 the provincial government declined to renew an operating license for the building held by the Hope Station House Community Arts & Heritage Society in 2014, unless repairs needed since 2010 were completed. AdvantageHOPE then lobbied the district to take over the building, with an eye to housing the visitors centre and museum there eventually.
The building was then renovated by residents, and cost estimates were prepared for a full renovation and repair by the district. The figures which came back in 2017 were too high for some councillors at the time, and ways to move forward on the project were debated at council and by the public. The following year, Mayor and council learned of the transportation ministry’s failure to engage with First Nations which put a stop to plans to transfer ownership of the land at 111 Old Hope Princeton Way to the municipality.
The ministry stated they are working with the district and Chawathil First Nation to explore “other viable uses” once the site is cleared.
Pick up next week’s edition of the Hope Standard for more on the history of the Hope station house. If you have memories of the station house, share them with us via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.