The district of Hope is looking into the feasibility of taking over control and operation of the Station House.
Tammy Shields, executive director of AdvantageHOPE, presented a business case to council on Monday night that would see the historic building serve as the community’s tourist centre and museum.
“This asset we feel belongs to the community and it’s in jeopardy,” said Shields. “Time is of the essence because of the deteriorating building. We have a lot of gratitude to everyone involved for us to get to this point here, and especially to the volunteers at the Station House. Without their efforts over the years, we wouldn’t have this piece of our community’s history. We definitely want to celebrate the legacy of those efforts.”
The Station House is prominently located at the junction of Hope Princeton Way and Water Avenue. The building was originally built in 1916 by the Great Northern Railway and was relocated to its present site in 1985. It is currently occupied by the Hope Station House Community Arts & Heritage Society. However, the provincial government owns the land and has declined to renew the license until repairs and deficiencies dating back to at least 2010 are completed. The Society is currently occupying the building with no formal term agreement in place.
In October 2013, AdvantageHOPE attended a regular meeting of the Society to present a proposal that would see them transfer interest in the property to AdvantageHOPE. A memorandum of understanding (MOA) was signed with AdvantageHOPE agreeing to adhere to three principles in readapting the property – preservation of the building, future use benefitting the whole community, and celebration of the Station House legacy. However, at a subsequent special meeting of the Society, membership voted by secret ballot to try and stay in occupancy.
AdvantageHOPE has since taken steps to follow through on the MOA, which included engagement with district staff, having a district building inspector visit the site, tour of the property with Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness, communication with the province, and attending a followup meeting with the Society.
AdvantageHOPE is now lobbying the district to assert ownership over the building and enter into a new agreement with the province to occupy the property. The district would provide a $100,000 initial contribution, which would be offset by the relocation of the Hope Visitor Centre and Museum Complex to the Station House. Shields said that investment can be leveraged further through grants and other funding opportunities.
“We think that the visitor centre and museum’s current location is a bit of a lost opportunity,” she said. “Most of our traffic comes into us at Exit 170, but most of it goes down Old Hope Princeton Way.”
Shields also pointed out that the current Hope Visitor Centre and Museum site is in need of capital investment in the near future, not only for aesthetics but for major repair/replacement of outdated building systems including heating, plumbing and electrical.
Mayor Susan Johnston said the possibility of the Station House being Hope’s welcome mat is very exciting. She pointed out that it’s time to “bite the bullet” and do something to make this happen, a view shared by Coun. Gerry Dyble.
“I agree something needs to be done with that property,” said Dyble. “I am supportive of this and I think it speaks to the community and it speaks to where we want to go in our vision. We can’t be shortsighted in our thoughts. It would be prudent of us to look at the feasibility.”
Coun. Donna Kropp and Coun. Ron Smith both supported the initiative but raised concerns about the perception of the Society being pushed out of the building. Kropp said she’d like to hear from all stakeholders before making a decision on the future of the Station House.
“I think the facility overall would be a great attraction. I like the goal and vision but I don’t want to be part of a coup and I don’t think the district should be doing that,” added Smith.
Staff will report back to council at a special meeting on Sept. 29.