Legion tweaks plans for Surrey’s Veterans Village

Royal Canadian Legion now looking to build one tower instead of two during first phase of Veterans Village project in Whalley.

New concept drawings for the Veterans Village project in Whalley show one tower instead of two as originally planned.

New concept drawings for the Veterans Village project in Whalley show one tower instead of two as originally planned.

SURREY — The Royal Canadian Legion is now looking to build one tower instead of two during the first phase of the development of the Veterans Village project in Whalley.

The Royal Canadian Legion announced last year that it will provide the land for a monumental twin-tower complex reminiscent of the Canadian Vimy Ridge Memorial in France, featuring bright vertical fields of red poppies reaching high into the sky in Whalley, adorning the facade of Canada’s first Veterans Village.

Preliminary renderings of the project were donated by Michael Green Architecture.

“That apparently would be too hard to build,” Sandy Reiser, executive director of the Royal Canadian Legion, BC/Yukon Command, told the Now this week. Phase one of the project will take about 18 months, she said, with soil preparation starting next spring and construction to “likely” begin next September.

“It won’t be two (towers) in phase one,” she said. The building will still have aspects of the Vimy Ridge Memorial incorporated into it, she added.

The Veterans Village will be constructed on the existing Whalley Legion Branch 229 site and include within its 16-28 storeys a “centre of excellence,” where veterans, soldiers and emergency first-responders will be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health-related concerns. The village will  also include a research and rehabilitation centre focusing on robotics, devices to help amputees, exoskeletons, and neuroscience as well as temporary housings for patients and their families, a healing garden and new legion lounge.

“There is a critical shortage of services here at home and across Canada to support and address the health care needs and re-integration of our veterans who return home to their families with requirements for urgent clinical care, both physical rehabilitation and PTSD,” Reiser said. “This flagship project will be the first in Canada and we are excited to see the project moving forward so quickly.”

The village might also include market rental housing, she said.

Marc Tremblay, president of the BC/Yukon Command, said the centre of excellence “will deliver health care programs and services to tackle some of the most challenging issues facing our veterans and first-responders today, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social housing for veterans and seniors in the local community.”

The Lark Group will develop the village, the idea of which was unveiled last year at a press conference at Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus. The BCYC Development Corporation, a subsidiary of the Royal BC/Yukon Command, is working with the Lark Group toward finalizing the scope of the project.

Lark Group President Larry Fisher said his Surrey-based firm, which has been in business since 1972, is “proud to be working with the Royal Canadian Legion on this highly anticipated project.”

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner told the Now the application “is not yet before us but they are in the midst of finalizing the design plans of what that village will look like. So it does still include veterans housing as well as affordable housing, as well as services for first responders.”

Reiser said money is still being raised for the project.

“We’re still lobbying for federal infrastructure funding,” she said.

tom.zytaruk@thenownewspaper.com

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