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EXCLUSIVE: 100-year-old building at səmiq̓ʷəʔelə/Riverview to be razed

A Coquitlam city councillor and heritage advocate is sounding the alarm over the imminent demolition of Valleyview Lodge at səmiq̓ʷəʔelə/Riverview.

A Coquitlam city councillor and heritage advocate is sounding the alarm over the imminent demolition of Valleyview Lodge at səmiq̓ʷəʔelə/Riverview.

The Tri-City News has learned the 100-year-old structure is scheduled to be town down by BC Housing — the agency in charge of the 244 public acres along Lougheed Highway — this month, once the City of Coquitlam has OK’d the demolition permit.

Carol De Paoli, the acting director of land development at səmiq̓ʷəʔelə/Riverview, told the Tri-City News last week that the Lodge — a Tudor-style building painted in white and orange — is in bad shape.

Constructed in 1922 for the Boys Industrial School of Coquitlam or BISCO, a place where “troubled youth” worked at Colony Farm, the three-storey structure was repurposed in the 1950s as the Essondale School for the Aged and renamed as Valleyview Lodge.

The Lodge has been empty for 30 years. “It’s posing some safety risks because it’s in such poor structural condition,” De Paoli said.

Among the building’s problems are

  • hazardous materials, including asbestos, mold and lead paint
  • its proximity to commuters, as it is sandwiched between two lanes on Iris Crescent
  • its location to newer buildings on the northern portion of the site that now has more activity

De Paoli said Kwikwetlem First Nation (KFN) has approved the demolition of Valleyview Lodge, and it will be torn down in a “controlled manner to ensure public safety.”

And while no heritage consultant report was done, a heritage advisor did an inspection last month and gave recommendations on the materials that could be salvaged, a BC Housing spokesperson said.

Coquitlam Coun. Craig Hodge, a past chair of the now-defunct Riverview Lands Advisory Committee for the city and a former Coquitlam Heritage Society president, told the Tri-City News that the provincial government came out with a conservation heritage plan in 2012 to review the 75 buildings and the natural assets at səmiq̓ʷəʔelə/Riverview.

BC Housing also conducted an assessment report when it took over a few years later and while its report was clear “that there would not be enough money to save and restore all the buildings, they committed to maintaining them until decisions about their future on the grounds were made.”

Hodge voiced concern about losing a primary building at səmiq̓ʷəʔelə/Riverview “without seeing a plan for the grounds or knowing what buildings are a priority for saving and restoration.”

And while BC Housing’s report states that Valleyview Lodge is in bad shape, Hodge said, “I’m worried this is going to be the criteria to start taking them down one by one and, without a heritage plan, we could eventually lose most — or all — of them.”

“If we do nothing and wait long enough, none of the heritage buildings will be classified as worth saving and that’s why, years ago, I stated if we don’t act soon we could see demolition by neglect.”

De Paoli confirmed there are “no immediate plans” to replace Valleyview Lodge nor to demolish other historical buildings at səmiq̓ʷəʔelə/Riverview.

Still, BC Housing and KFN are undergoing a master planning process for the grounds and some buildings “are in critical condition,” she said.

For Valleyview Lodge, “it’s really evident that we had to take action…. This is in the interests of public safety. It’s a decision that has to be made for the visitors and the users of the land.”