The public got a first view of plans Oct. 22 for a proposed South Surrey development combining residential highrises with a performing arts centre and contemporary arts cafe/gallery.

Divided views over arts-centre towers proposed for South Surrey

Residential high rise proposal offers cultural amenities

About 200 people packed the Rotary Field House Tuesday night to learn more about a proposed residential-tower development that advocates believe could help create a cultural hub in South Surrey.

Among the crowd, attitudes seemed split between those excited about the potential of the proposed amenities – among them a 350-seat performing-arts centre – and those wary of the impact of two towers, one 26 storeys and the other 19, at the corner of 152 Street and 19 Avenue.

The as-yet unnamed project, still in the design proposal stage, would be a co-operative development of the Reifel Cook Group and the Surrey City Development Corporation, each owners of lots that would be combined for the project.

In response to questions from the crowd, architect Patrick Cotter said the project would provide about 300 units.

In his presentation, he pointed out the site is in an area of the Semiahmoo Town Centre plan identified as eligible for bonus density in return for cultural amenities, and is one of three locations where a ‘landmark’ tower could be able to exceed a 20-storey limit.

He said the current plan is for towers of different heights “offset to provide daylight and view areas.”

Four-storey ‘podiums’ for the towers would include retail and office space, he said, while a pedestrian mews along 152 Street would be an adjunct to shopping and a cafe/gallery space.

Nearly 600 underground parking spaces on 3½ levels are also proposed.

Cotter said such development would leverage provision of more rapid transit for the area – as it allows the city to take more road allowances for necessary widening of the streets.

The proposed performing-arts centre would be a full proscenium theatre (a framed, curtained stage), and would include a secondary rehearsal hall that could function as a studio theatre for smaller-scale productions.

Cotter said before the meeting that he was sure there would be “some concern about tower height. We want to make sure we’re addressing all of the issues about the form of the development. We want to be upfront in providing as much of this information as possible.”

Cotter said the proposal was “exceptional” in that the owners are opting to provide actual cultural amenities rather than just contributing cash in lieu of them.

David Cann, president of the Semiahmoo Residents Association – historic foes of highrise development in the Semiahmoo Town Centre – said he was heartened by the number of people attending the meeting.

Cann had said earlier that while his group is “without a doubt” in favour of the development of arts facilities, he questioned the need for more theatre space, in the context of the nearby Coast Capital Playhouse in White Rock and the Wheelhouse Theatre at Earl Marriott Secondary.

“Whether what they’re offering is of any significance, I doubt,” he said. “It seems like a bit of a fob – here, guys, let us build these highrise towers and we’ll give you some arts facilities.”

Cann noted that Bosa’s Miramar Village development in White Rock was also described as the site of an art centre in its early stages, but evolved into a more broadly-defined community centre.

 

 

 

 

 

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