Opinion

COLUMN: Creating a city of culture

Two separate developments in vastly different parts of the city offer proof of the dynamic changes taking place in Surrey.

Last week, Sean Hodgins of developer Century Group announced that Marriott International would operate a hotel that is a part of 3 Civic Plaza, a 52-storey mixed-use building that will be built adjacent to the new Surrey City Hall, at 103 Avenue and 134 Street.

The building will feature office space and a hotel lobby on the lower floors, 13 floors and 144 rooms for the hotel guests and another 34 storeys containing 330 residential units. People working in the area will get extra incentives to buy the residential units, as part of a city goal of having more people living close to their work.

Meanwhile, an innovative project in South Surrey would see a private developer build two residential towers at 19 Avenue and 152 Street, one of 26 storeys and another of 19. The development would include a 350-seat performing arts centre and a contemporary art gallery and café. It, too, would have commercial and office space.

Architect Patrick Cotter is involved with both projects.

Many things come to mind when thinking about these developments, both of which are breathtaking in many ways.

In Surrey City Centre (known as Whalley), a building of this type next to the new city hall will bring a very different look and feel to the area. It may well be a game-changer.

Cotter acknowledges this in his remarks on the building.

“It wasn’t simply a matter of responding to the existing context of the area, but to envision the Civic Plaza in the future,” says a statement on his firm’s website.

Cotter calls the design a “forward-thinking exercise.”

When it was announced in the late 1980s that SkyTrain would be built into Whalley, many people hoped that would lead to redevelopment of the area, which had a tired look based on small homes and buildings, most of which were built in the 1940s and 1950s.

However, a number of factors, including the economic slowdown in the 1990s, a wide variety of owners of small properties and worsening social problems, have hindered the type of wholesale change that was foreseen. The first step in the right direction was the Gateway development on 108 Avenue, built in conjunction with the SkyTrain construction.

The redevelopment of Surrey Place to Central City, with a large and striking office tower that now is the heart of the Surrey campus of Simon Fraser University, was the next step. It has been a winner in many respects, particularly since SFU became involved.

The city’s bold decision to build a new city hall and library, in addition to other civic initiatives such as redevelopment of Holland Park as a civic gathering place, was another key step.

This building is the next step, and it will be a significant one. 3 Civic Plaza is expected to be finished by 2016, and when the building is completed there will be a whole lot more centre to the sprawling City of Surrey.

The South Surrey development, which will be the subject of an information meeting next Tuesday, is a significant step towards making the area along 152 Street the heart of the South Surrey-White Rock downtown. The performing arts centre is part of a city policy of developing cultural space in different parts of the city.

It would be nice to see the long-established and highly respected White Rock Players Club, which owns its own cultural facility just a few blocks down the street, be involved in some way with this new facility, if it comes to be. Co-operation between White Rock and Surrey on how best to support the arts community would also be a positive step.

It’s ironic for those of us with long memories, in one respect. In 1986, a proposal to build highrises on Martin Drive, very close to this proposed development, met with stiff objections, and was eventually shelved. Twenty-seven years later, after many years of rapid growth, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal in South Surrey.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.

 

 

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