The Whalley Legion has found a temporary location, as it must relocate from its longtime home while the $66-million Legion Veterans Village project is constructed in its place.
President of the Whalley Legion Branch 229 Tony Moore confirmed a lease has been signed to rent the now-closed Tokachi Japanese Restaurant, in a complex at 10767 King George Blvd.
“We hope to be in there by May 15,” he said. “We’re putting in some carpet, and some dance floor-type stuff, planking, on the ground.”
The new space is about a third of the size of the Whalley Legion’s longtime home, at 13525 106th Ave., where it has operated since 1948.
“We can get about 110 people in there, where the other legion could put a few hundred in there. It’s bigger than you think once you take out all those little rooms. We have a couple of pool tables we’ll be putting in there, so we’ll be able to continue our pool leagues. And it has a nice big kitchen, so we can feed people, as we do,” said Moore.
The landlord of the shopping complex has agreed the legion can also put up a mobile trailer on the property, “so the cadets can have an office and a place to meet,” Moore noted.
On April 15, Surrey council gave first reading to the legion’s application for a liquor license at the new location, which will now go to public hearing in two weeks.
“Hopefully that all goes fine and we’ll get our friends in Victoria to issue of a temporary liquor license,” said Moore.
But before they make the move, the legion is holding their annual donation dinner on April 18, where Moore said they are giving away $100,000 to various organizations in the community, from cadets to the hospital.
“So one last big donation dinner before we move,” he said.
It’s hoped the cenotaph can be made mobile, Moore explained, so it can still be used as part of Remembrance Day celebrations this year, perhaps at the old Grosvenor Road school site.
“That’s where the first Remembrance Day ceremony was held in Surrey, back in 1920-something,” he noted.
Other items, such as memorabilia, will be put in storage while the legion is at its temporary home.
Moore said the legion is expected to stay at the temporary location for two-and-a-half to three years, while the Veterans Village is built.
Groundbreaking for that project, he said, is set for May 23.
The Legion Veterans Village has passed fourth reading, with the former Surrey council approving the rezoning and subdivision plan at the Oct. 1, 2018 council meeting.
Former mayor Linda Hepner fast-tracked the project, as part of a “nexus” program for “transformative, city-shaping” projects.
The Veterans Village was initiated by the Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon Command (BC/Yukon Command), the Whalley Legion Branch 229, and the Lark Group. It will be Canada’s first Centre of Excellence for veterans and first responders that focuses on post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental health.
It will also be an “Innovation Centre for Rehabilitation,” offering clinical rehabilitation services, research and the delivery of health care programs, services and trauma counseling for PTSD and mental health, which includes advanced evidence-based services and programming in health, science and engineering, including innovations in robotics, assistive devices and technologies for injured veterans and first responders.
And, of course, it will house the Whalley Legion.
Moore said the project will be a “real game-changer,” not only for veterans, but also for the wider Whalley community.
How will it feel when the old Whalley Legion building is inevitably torn down to make way for the new one?
“It’ll be a tear shed, I’m sure, but she’s been a strong girl,” said Moore. “She’s getting to the end of her days. It seems like she knows it’s time to go on.”
For more information on the Legion Veterans Village, visit legionveteransvillage.ca.
Learn more about the legion at whalleylegion.org.