Mission residents toured through the partially completed Fraser River Heritage Park observatory building on Wednesday afternoon.
For many, it was the first look inside the structure that has been the centre of an ongoing debate.
Originally planned as an observatory, the building’s future is now in limbo. Last year, council determined that the project would not move forward and the site would be re-purposed. The district has also taken over the renovation of three other buildings in the park, including the Blackberry Kitchen.
The observatory debate began in December 2014 after the district gave notice to the Mission Heritage Association (MHA) that it would not be renewing its agreement to maintain the facilities at the Fraser River Heritage Park. As part of that decision, the observatory project was eventually scrapped.
MHA members have been vocal in their opposition of the move.
Wednesday’s open house was held to allow the public to make suggestions on what the building could become. Several supporters of the observatory were on hand to suggest the project be renewed.
“I’m here because I believe this building should not be re-purposed to anything other than the observatory concept for which it was built,” said MHA president Brian Antonson, who added many people who attended the open house felt the same way.
“These people came here because they believe it should be an observatory. As one fellow said, ‘They’re a biased group’ and, of course, it is. That’s why they came out, to show their support.”
Mission Mayor Randy Hawes was on hand to talk to members of the public about the building. He said now that council has analyzed all the information about the observatory and determined the project won’t work well, they are seeking alternative uses.
“We’re saying the building is here, what can it become? And we’re asking the public, give us your two cents worth and ultimately we’ll make a decision,” said Hawes.
Some suggestion discussed by attendees included a community centre, music venue, art gallery, meeting space for non-profit organizations, tearing the structure down entirely and an observatory.
“There has been some stuff put out on social media and I know some are saying build the observatory, but that ship has sailed. So we’re looking at what can we do,” said Hawes.
Input from the open house will be included in a report to council to determine the future of the building.