The former site of MSA Hospital on McCallum Road has been unused for more than a decade. That could change soon now that the land has been handed back to the Matsqui First Nation. (File photo)

The former site of MSA Hospital on McCallum Road has been unused for more than a decade. That could change soon now that the land has been handed back to the Matsqui First Nation. (File photo)

Matsqui First Nation plan rental housing at former MSA hospital site in central Abbotsford

First Nation governing body member says return of property is a ‘win-win-win’

The Matsqui First Nation hopes to build rental apartment units on a nine-acre piece of land on McCallum Road, a member of the band’s governing body says. And Stan Morgan says Matsqui also hopes that Fraser Health revisits its initial plan to build a health-care facility on the site.

The nine-acre site would have enough room to spur the biggest infusion of rental housing Abbotsford has seen in decades.

Last week, the First Nation announced that Fraser Health and the province had turned the McCallum Road site of the former MSA Hospital over to the band.

The land has sat empty since the opening of the new Abbotsford Regional Hospital and subsequent demolition of the old hospital. Although Fraser Health initially hoped to build a community health centre and hundreds of residential care beds on the site and issued requests for proposals on the matter, it later abandoned those plans and moved to dispose of the site.

That was when Matsqui First Nation became involved, Morgan told The News. In recent decades, First Nations around the province have been trying to reclaim land that their people had once controlled and used to support themselves. Matsqui hoped to do the same, but had few options in a region that was mostly private farmland, parkland or already developed.

“Matsqui has been working real hard over the past 15 years to work on acquiring land bases back,” Morgan said. “It’s a difficult endeavour because you can only go after Crown parcels [and] there’s very little Crown land left in this territory.”

So when Fraser Health signaled its intention to dispose of the McCallum Road property, the local First Nation saw a chance to claim back a portion of its traditional territory, which stretches from the Fraser River to south of the U.S. border.

“It’s one of the few shots we’ve had in my lifetime to actually get land base back,” Morgan said.

The process took years, but Morgan said most of that involved stick-handling through government bureaucracy while consulting with other stakeholders – including other area First Nations.

“It’s been a lot of back and forth,” he said. “You want to make sure that everybody comes out feeling that it’s a win, and I think that’s been our main goal from the beginning – to make sure it’s a win-win-win.”

He said the deal should please everyone.

“When you think about the government of B.C. and its reconciliation initiatives, it crosses that one off. It gives Matsqui back a core piece of land where they can develop it and realize some economic benefits. And it also helps the city because it has been a piece of un-utilized land for the last decade.”

The land will remain within the City of Abbotsford and its rules will guide how it is developed in the years to come. Matsqui, meanwhile, intends to hold onto the entirety of the parcel.

The First Nation has partnered with a Vancouver development company to create a mixed-use project on the site. It would include rental housing, commercial and institutional uses.

“We need to look at the existing zoning and it maps out where we can go for now,” Morgan said. “We do want to do a bit of mixed uses, we want to do some commercial.”

The land is designated as “urban1/midrise” in the city’s 2016 Official Community Plan. That allows for buildings up to six storeys tall, with some associated commercial uses.

The density permitted on nine acres could allow for as many as 1,000 apartments to be built on the site, although that figure would be dependent not only on the size of the units, but also on a range of other factors, including the inclusion and amount of commercial, and the prospect of density bonusing provisions through community contributions.

Morgan said Fraser Health is welcome to rejoin the discussions.

“The other thing is we have never shut the door to talks with Fraser Health Authority as well because initially they were going to partner with us on a subdivision on the parcel and develop a community health centre for the region, which we thought was an excellent idea.

“Since then, government has changed policy – they’re not entertaining any kind of capital expenditures – but we said, ‘This is going to be a long project so if in two years you change your mind, please come back and knock on our door.’

“We’re really hoping that does come to light because that would be excellent not only for Matsqui citizens but also for citizens of Abbotsford.”

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nick Warmerdam and his dog Diesel are inviting locals to check out the Lakeland Farm U-pick Flower Farm this spring. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
VIDEO & SLIDESHOW: Abbotsford’s Lakeland Flowers opens for spring

Tulip farm attraction opened on April 14, open to the public daily seven days a week

A man holds a child while speaking with RCMP following an erratic driving incident on Highway 1 in Chilliwack on Friday, April 16, 2021. The child and a woman (but not this man) were in this Jeep Grand Cherokee which hit a barrier and a parked car on Highway 1 and continued driving. The vehicle finally exited the highway at Yale Road West and came to a stop. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Video captures woman driving erratically with child after hitting barrier, car on Hwy 1 in Chilliwack

Smoke seen coming from SUV as it continues to travel eastbound of shoulder of highway

Video image
UPDATE: Bridge traffic moving normally after high-velocity crash involving logging truck

Northbound crash occurred at approximately 2 p.m., involves 6 vehicles, north lanes shut down

An undated picture of the Hope Station House. (Photo/Save The Hope Station House)
Hope council must consider all options for Station House: B.C. Ombudsperson

Investigation ‘revealed flaws in District’s process,’ statement said

The West Coast Women’s Show is among numerous events held annually at Tradex in Abbotsford. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Show producers start petition against city’s call for Tradex proposals

Abbotsford site should remain as events facility, petition states

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

Former Pitt Meadows city councillor David Murray was convicted of sex assault, and is now being sued by the victim. (files)
Former Pitt Meadows city councillor sued for sex assault

David Murray was convicted in 2017 of sexually assaulting a teen 25 years earlier

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Most Read