An event in Fleetwood on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 9) will have the community looking back, and also forward.
This year is the 100th anniversary of Fleetwood Community Association (FCA), founded in 1923 by Edith Francis to further establish a neighbourhood named in honour of her brother, Arthur Thomas Fleetwood, a soldier killed six years earlier in the First World War, two days after his 39th birthday.
Today, Fleetwood is recognized as one of Surrey’s six town centres, along with Newton, Whalley, Cloverdale, Guildford and South Surrey.
“We’re the smallest of the six but Fleetwood is growing and is already the place to be, with SkyTrain coming,” said Dean Barbour, executive director of Fleetwood Business Improvement Association (BIA).
Saturday’s Business Expo and Family Fun Fest will run from 4 to 6 p.m. at Francis Park, followed by a showing of the animated movie “Shrek” starting at 7:45 p.m.
Bree-Anna Berman became president of Fleetwood Community Association in 2017 following the death of community leader Rick Hart, who had helped establish the BIA a year earlier.
“He was a good family friend of ours who was diagnosed with brain cancer, and his dying wish was that I get involved, so I got involved,” Berman recalled. “I couldn’t say no.”
She loves the community feel of Fleetwood, “where you can walk on the streets and people say hi to you,” Berman said. “Our goal is keep that, even with the major changes coming and how it’s all going to look a little bit different here.”
• RELATED: Surrey moves to second stage of Fleetwood Plan, from 2022.
• READ MORE: A park for sister of Thomas Fleetwood, from 2011.
In recent years the BIA and community association have worked together to maintain Fleetwood’s livability while planning continues for the arrival of SkyTrain stations on Fraser Highway including three in Fleetwood — at 152 Street, another at 160th and a third near Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex, at 166th.
“We’re working together in anticipation of all this change and growth here,” Barbour said. “I mean, there really hasn’t been much happening in Fleetwood since the Port Mann Bridge opened in 1964 and Fraser Highway was deemed, you know, no longer the number-one highway here.
“So Fleetwood has almost been in a time capsule with strip malls and single-family dwellings for many years,” he continued. “We had a number of very large mobile home parks and now we’re seeing those, most recently on Fraser Highway, be redeveloped into six-storey condos on acres of land. Change is coming, it’s on the horizon and it’s going to be very, very big.”
This year the BIA and FCA pitched city hall to create the Fleetwood Heritage Gateway Project on the former Two EE’s market site on Fraser Highway, at 164 Street. The city-owned land is considered a “Special Study Area,” according to an 11-page document that outlines the proposed project.
The vision is to build “a multi-purpose, two-floor, ‘old style’ or heritage looking building with state-of-the-art eco-friendly amenities including solar power terminals, electric vehicle charging stations, rain water recycling and other environmental building options for long term sustainability,” the document says.
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The building’s main floor would have a large, Indigenous-inspired gathering area, a small museum showcasing Fleetwood and First Nations history and a reception area that could double as a visitor centre during peak tourist times and while large events are happening in and around the recreation centre.
“The idea has evolved in recent years,” Barbour noted. “It would be a large facility that would allow for us to have space to do events, because we don’t have that in Fleetwood. We have a lot of parks but not a good gathering space for things like a farmers’ market. We also would like to see a cenotaph there, because of our connection to a First World War veteran, Fleetwood.
“We’ve been talking about it and we’ve got a whole proposal, a plan in place for it,” Barbour added. “We’ve got some partnerships and it’s just a matter of now taking the next step, getting buy-in at city hall, the planning department. We’re excited about the project.”