The community is one step closer to having a new location for its tourist information centre.
Hope Station House Community Arts & Heritage Society held a special meeting on Friday night to discuss the building’s future. Fourteen of the 17 members in attendance signed a letter of intent, including one signature delivered by proxy, to bring forward and support a resolution to turn over control and operation of the Station House building to the District of Hope by Jan. 5, 2015.
“We as a Society have been struggling for a long time,” said Society president Ron Bennett.
“Every person there works very hard and we did everything we could to try and make things work. There’s so much to be done and we don’t have the money to do it. If you can’t bring something forward, then it’s best to let it go.”
The provincial government declined to renew the Society’s operating license until repairs and deficiencies dating back to at least 2010 are completed. In September, representatives from the province met with the Society executive and urged them to turn the building over to the district. While the province won’t force them out, they have communicated to the Society and the district that status quo can’t continue there indefinitely.
“Right now, let’s face it, that building is the first thing you see and it is an eyesore. It’s sad because it should be a showpiece coming into Hope,” said Bennett. “For somebody else to come in, take the building and do the repairs and fix it up, I think it would be a joy to see that building being put back to where it should be. I’m only grateful, along with members, that we are the ones that carried it this far.”
AdvantageHOPE is currently 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 & Museum Complex to the Station House. In her presentation to council on Aug. 25, Tammy Shields, executive director of AdvantageHOPE, said that investment can be leveraged further through grants and other funding opportunities. She also pointed out that the current Hope Visitor Centre & Museum Complex site is in need of capital investment in the near future, not only for aesthetics but for major repair/replacement of outdated building systems including heating, plumbing and electrical.
The Society has agreed to vacate the Station House as long as the district adheres to three principles in readapting the property – preservation of the building, celebration of the Station House legacy, and future use benefiting the whole community.
Members also indicated two other conditions in their letter of intent. The district would have to ratify the business case and action plan developed by AdvantageHOPE and presented to council on Aug. 25 for the relocation of the Hope Visitor Centre & Museum Complex to the Station House, as well as contribute $10,000 to the Society immediately upon notification of such resolution so that the Society can have the funds to discharge all outstanding debts and help carry short-term shortfalls while the formal agreement to vacate is executed.
Shields believes the Society’s letter of intent increases the urgency for council to take action on the Station House. An in-camera council meeting was held on Monday night to discuss the building’s future and details of that meeting have not yet been made public.
“I think this letter was a crucial step – it sets out a framework for the Society to pass the torch of stewardship over to AdvantageHOPE in a way that ensures that this building will continue to be a community treasure for years to come,” said Shields. “I am proud that through this process we’ve been able to build a relationship with the Society, such that some of them are truly excited again to be part of a new chapter in the story of Station House.”