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Final homesite of Abbotsford’s ‘Gladiola King’ property set for development

Twin six-storey buildings to be constructed on old home of ‘Magnolia King of the Fraser Valley’
A developer hopes to build two six-storey apartment buildings on land just north of Hoon Park along Marshall Road. City of Abbotsford image

The last piece of land owned by the “Gladiola King of the Fraser Valley” is set for development after council endorsed a plan to construct two apartment buildings on a heavily forested Marshall Road parcel.

Eighty years ago, Leonard (Len) Hoon moved, with his parents and siblings, to a 10-acre farm near the corner of Marshall Road and Ware Street.

Hoon would leave several years later – he attended a school of mining in South Africa, joined the South African navy when war broke out, and met and married a nurse from Ottawa named Eleanor – but in 1946 he returned to Canada with his new wife and took over the family farm.

Another 10 acres were purchased, and “Leonard started planting trees and farming dairy, berries and chickens,” his daughter Pat Schendel said last week.

He also grew prodigious amounts of flowers, some of which were used by neighbours for weddings, birthdays, funerals and parties. He also planted evergreen trees that now tower over the surrounding homes.

Leonard and Eleanor would remain at the farm – which grew to 20 acres – for the rest of their lives, watching Abbotsford develop around them.

The Hoons sold some land in 1960 to enable the construction of Highway 1. Much of the rest was sold off in 1969 for the construction of homes.

Another five acres of land went to the city to create what became Hoon Park – a green forest in the centre of a growing neighbourhood. But the Hoons kept a small piece adjacent to Marshall Road for themselves.

Eleanor passed away in 1995, but Len lived another 20 years, dying in 2016, two months after celebrating his 100th birthday.

After Hoon’s death, Schendel said she and her siblings sought out a builder who would respect the land’s past.

“Our concern was to find a developer that would incorporate a heritage angle into the development to honour our parents,” she told council last Monday at a public hearing for a proposal to build two apartments on the land.

The proposal would see a pair of six-storey buildings, with 60 units each, constructed on land immediately north of Hoon Park.

The orientation of the buildings will provide better access and sightlines to Hoon Park, the developer said. Rhododendrons will be planted around the site, and a trail will connect Marshall Road to Hoon Park.

“It is a time for renewal, to replace the old with the new, and to give the space to many young families that we baby boomers have produced,” Schendel said.

Not all of those living nearby were delighted with the development. The development will see Holland Avenue extended through to Lynn Crescent, raising fears among neighbours about traffic and parking.

The need to remove more than 150 trees from the site also generated complaints.

And others said the six-storey height of the buildings is too tall.

But many of those who expressed concern also thanked the Hoons for their contributions to the neighbourhood.

Council unanimously approved the project, with several paying tribute to the Hoon family.

“Over the years I’ve spent countless hours in that park,” Coun. Brenda Falk said.

“I think it was one of my favourite places to hang out when I was a child. I appreciated the forest and the trees. I value what the Hoon Family has given to our community and I just really want to say thank you.”