A public hearing on a residential towers proposal with arts amenities for South Surrey could take place as soon as Feb. 3, if the project passes first and second readings in January.
That’s the target date, according to Shawna Nickel, marketing director for Cotter Architects Inc., designer of the multi-purpose project proposed for co-developers the Reifel Cooke Group and the Surrey City Development Corporation.
The target date for first and second readings of the project is Jan. 13. If both readings are passed, the project would be able to proceed to public hearing on Feb. 3.
The two-tower proposal – which, in addition to around 328 residential units, would provide building shells for both a 350-seat theatre/performing arts centre and contemporary arts cafe and gallery – would be located at the corner of 152 Street and 19 Avenue.
At its highest point, it would reach the equivalent of 27 storeys above ground level – permissible at the site under the city’s interim land use and density concept for the Semiahmoo Town Centre, which has identified it as one of a limited number of ‘landmark’ sites where building over 20 storeys could be allowed.
Although opponents have said they are not opposed to the kind of arts amenities included in the plan, they question whether these would actually turn out as described.
Neighbour Kristen Smith – who encourages participation in a Semiahmoo Residents Against Tower Development Facebook page – notes providing the interiors of the performing arts centre and the arts cafe and gallery are dependent on taxpayer dollars and city management for the timing and form in which they appear. Concerns cited by Smith include the shadow effect of the proposed buildings, lack of infrastructure in the area to support the project, existing traffic congestion, disruption during construction and a change in character of the neighbourhood.
Smith noted proposed benefits of the development would not be immediate – while the development would contribute property for the widening of 152 Street to accommodate future transit lanes, for instance, it would only provide for widening in front of the proposed buildings, with the rest provided only over many years through taxpayer dollars.
South Surrey architect Paul Rust – a member of White Rock’s Advisory Design Panel – attended the project’s most recent public- information meeting, Dec. 4.
Rust said that aside from some esthetic concerns about the current style in building profiles, he believes Patrick Cotter is a “skillful” architect who is trying to balance all the requirements of a project in which the city is a major partner.
A wide pedestrian area along 152 Street in the plan has taken interior space that could have been used to provide a covered galleria connection linking the performing arts centre with the gallery and café space, Rust said, adding he believes the architect is responding to Surrey planning input in providing the feature.
“We live in a rainy climate,” he said. “We don’t have to keep providing these outdoor plazas, and architects should push back a little on these requirements.”
Order of Canada recipient George Zukerman, founder of the White Rock Concerts subscription series, was among those viewing the plans with interest.
Zukerman, who noted he is not opposed to highrises, said the gallery space in the plan would be “a worthwhile addition,” though he would like to see even more performance space.
“I wish it could be 850 seats – 1,000 would be even better,” he said.
“But I don’t want to knock anything. I’m sure it will be a wonderful space, and I’m sure there will be lots of groups who will have use for it.”