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Century Group sells Marpole Midden to Musqueam
The so-called "Marpole Midden" saga has come to a conclusion with the announcement that the Musqueam Indian Band has purchased the land from Tsawwassen-based real estate company Century Holdings.
Originally slated for a five-story mixed residential and commercial project on less than a hectare of land near the on-ramp to the Arthur Laing bridge and Marine Drive, work was stopped after human remains were found by construction crews.
Following an archeological study the remains were deemed to be an ancient burial site for the Musqueam people, and last September the province said it would not extend a permit for the development to continue.
“The successful resolution of the development plans for these lands demonstrates First Nations and private property owners can work together to understand each other’s interests, and conduct business in a respectful way," said Chief Wayne Sparrow of the Musqueam, adding the main goal was always to protect the interests of the membership, including lands, history, and culture.
Coast Salish people are believed to have occupied the area from 2,000 years ago until about the 1800s when smallpox wiped out many First Nations populations.
The ancient village and burial site was discovered in 1884 during the upgrading of Garypie Farm Road and the site of excavations for many years until it was declared a National Historic Site in 1933. It is believed to be one of the largest pre-contact middens in Western Canada.
When the burial site was discovered in 2012 protesters held numerous rallies to prevent the development from going ahead.
Century Group president Sean Hodgins said he was pleased that the Musqueam acted honourably by purchasing the land as they promised following the work stoppage. The sale, however, did not prevent the company from taking a significant loss on their investment.
"In the end of the day it's just one of the ups and downs of a difficult business," he said. "Sometimes you lose your shirt and other times you lose the sleeves off your shirt. So this time we only lost the sleeves."
Hodgins said the project first took shape when the Hackett family, which has been friends with the Hodgins family for 50 years, approached Century Holdings with a proposal to redevelop their land in Marpole.
Century HQ Development had presold most of the 108-units from the five-storey residential building with ground floor retail shops when the bones were discovered.
Hodgins said he didn't think the project would be scrapped by the discovery of the bones, adding in other instances where a burial site has been unearthed a First Nations group has relocated the ancestral remains.
"It just depends on the sensitivities of the local First Nation. So, they were very sensitive about it in this case."
The Musqueam is currently in discussions with all levels of government on identifying the next steps in protecting the Marpole Midden.
For photos and more information, visit the Facebook group Protect the village and midden site of c̓əsnaʔəm (Marpole).