(Neil Corbett/THE NEWS) Museum curator Leslie Norman said the The Old General Store (right) may need to be moved across Harris Road to the same site as the Hoffman and Son Machine Shop.

Underpass may force relocation of Pitt Meadows museum

Currently located in Old General Store on Harris Road.

The announcement of more funding for a rail underpass at Harris Road in Pitt Meadows may come as relief to commuters, but could force the relocation of the Pitt Meadows Museum.

One solution could be to move the Old General Store, which houses the museum, across the road, to the same site as the Hoffman and Son Machine Shop.

“It’s yet to be determined where it will go, but it will probably go across the street,” curator Leslie Norman said of the museum.

The society operates both the Old General Store and Hoffman shop.

Norman said the society has been told both buildings will need to be moved back from the road to create enough space for the proposed changes to the road, and for temporary traffic lanes during construction.

The society has not been told how far back the buildings would be moved, but Norman said there may not be enough room at the General Store site.

And, she asks, can the General Store, which sits on a crawlspace, be moved?

Can the garage, which sits on a slab foundation, be moved?

How would the garage site be accessed by the public if the underpass proceeds?

Norman said the buildings both have additions and the society has yet to hear from an engineer whether moving them is possible. The costs of doing so are also not known, or who would pay.

“The society is small, and we don’t have any money to put toward it,” said Norman.

“And we need to know engineering-wise if it can be done,” she added.

“This was all a pipe-dream a month ago.”

The federal government and Vancouver Fraser Port Authority have both contributed approximately two-thirds of the cost of the new railway infrastructure, and CPR is in negotiations about the remaining funding.

Norman said the General Store sits on a pie-shaped lot, with the wide end facing Harris Rd. Moving it back from the street would eliminate all visitor parking.

The city owns the lot, having purchased it in 1997 as a derelict former store, that was used by squatters.

The society has operated out of the site since 1998, officially opening on Pitt Meadows Day that year.

The society owns the artifacts.

A better solution, said Norman, might be to move it across the street, and create a “heritage corner.”

The society owns the Hoffman Garage site, which is one acre in size, and is bordered by both Hoffman park and a one-acre lot to the south, which is owned by the city, and includes a caretaker’s residence adjacent to the garage.

So there is potentially a lot of room to operate there.

“From a staffing point of view, clearly it’s an advantage not to do a roundabout route from one building to the other,” said Norman.

The museum society has started a new facilities committee, made up of herself and four board members. The chair of the committee is Rick Higgs.

The board will be walking the site with Gateway officials in the near future. It is also planning to meet with engineers this month.

Mayor Bill Dingwall said the property issues have been dealt with by council in closed meetings, so he is not at liberty to discuss moving the museum.

“The city owns the building, and we have a real vested interest in taking care of it,” Dingwall added.

He said the museum was moved from a different location to its current site, and a consultant has told council both buildings can be moved.

Dingwall said the city will work with the museum society and other interested parties on the new sites for the heritage buildings.

“It will be a real legacy piece if we can make it all happen,” he said.

For her part, Norman will be preparing for the disruption to come, focused on moving some 3,000 artifacts as well as the community archives from the museum building.

This summer, a student will be given the task of boxing and securing the artifacts that are not on exhibit.

Norman said the society is committed to the preservation of both buildings and their contents.



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