The sign says Coming Soon: Cloverdale West Village, but business leaders in the historic town centre are bracing for a very long wait until the project breaks ground, and patience is running out.
There’s growing frustration that the long-promised redevelopment project – bounded by the Cloverdale bypass and 57 and 58 Avenues – won’t get underway any time soon.
Last week, fears of a 10-year timeline or longer to develop the old Cloverdale mall site prompted the president of the Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce to speak out to members, calling the City of Surrey and the Surrey City Development Corporation “neglectful and downright insulting to our community.”
The Cloverdale Chamber is actively lobbying for improvements on the site in the short-term, Brian Young said, adding a private developer would be expected to clean up the mess but the SCDC is “wholly owned” by the city. Its mandate is to develop city-owned properties such as the former “Safeway” mall site.
“It’s not on the [City of Surrey’s] 10-year capital plan,” Young told the Reporter Monday, speaking at the Destination Cloverdale offices the chamber shares with the Cloverdale Business Improvement Association.
“So what is it, is it 10 years or is it 20 years? Young said, adding Cloverdale businesses and residents will be living with “a vacant mess” on the largest frontage the town centre has – Highway 15, or the Cloverdale bypass.
The old Cloverdale mall was demolished in 2011 as part of a city-backed, multi-phase plan to redevelop the site with a mix of residential and commercial buildings, helping revitalize Cloverdale.
The overall project developer is the Surrey City Development Corporation, along with Townline Housing Solutions.
The project’s first phase was shelved at the start of 2012 due to market conditions. It was to have included a new home for Cloverdale Legion Branch 6.
Site servicing concluded six months ago. Since then, there’s been virtually no activity – except for more remediation work related to contamination from a former dry cleaning operation.
The site – in particular the lack of a sidewalk on the north side of 57 Avenue – is the also a top priority for the Cloverdale Business Improvement Association.
Months after crews laid down roads, sidewalks and site servicing required to redevelop the site, pedestrians wishing to cross from downtown to West Cloverdale must navigate over rough gravel along a bumpy pathway bordered by pristine cement curbs [see photo at left].
“This is part of a project that the City of Surrey owns that is missing a sidewalk,” Cloverdale BIA executive director Paul Orazietti said. “It’s not bad if you’re an able-bodied individual, but I have seen several people, both in gurney and also on wheelchair, who have a really tough time negotiating this.”
Several mattresses were recently dumped nearby, and an RV was parked in the middle of the site for a few days, raising suspicions that the future Cloverdale West Village is being used as a freebie campsite.
“The city needs to be vigilant and the city needs to help us. It’s their property.”
Orazietti said it’s vital to existing businesses that the revitalization project goes ahead as soon as possible.
“Having this particular property is so critical because it creates a bridge with Brickyard Station, Highway 10 and the east,” he said. “It becomes a core. When people are living here, they don’t necessarily want to drive to Langley for a coffee and other things, and for restaurants and other services.”
This property continues to be one of the most complicated pieces of property in the city to develop, he added.
“Were looking at it as a major road block to any further development downtown,” said Rob Paterson, the newly-elected president of the Cloverdale BIA, who remembers when the site was a baseball field.
“It’s high time that something has happened. All we seem to get is excuses and dodging from the developer and the city,” Paterson said.
And as much as the former mall was an eyesore, the overflow parking it provided during community events is missed.
”In hindsight, were we better with an eyesore with overflow parking?” he said.
Young agrees, wondering why the city took away an amenity like parking only to leave the site vacant for 10-plus years, “And watch the businesses close.”
Young said the city promised that the fence along the bypass would be removed, the garbage cleaned up and the site beautified by June.
Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce director Ben Wevers said that after years of believing that the city had Cloverdale’s best interests at heart, it’s gotten to the point where frustration has simply boiled over.
“We’re getting tired of this,” Wevers said.
“Especially in an election year. The people of Cloverdale aren’t going to sit back and look at an empty property for 10 years.”