104 Avenue Centre, a long-vacant building located on 104th Avenue in Surrey, pictured on April 6, 2021. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

104 Avenue Centre, a long-vacant building located on 104th Avenue in Surrey, pictured on April 6, 2021. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

SURREY NOW & THEN: Inside the Whalley building that’s been vacant for two decades (VIDEO)

A weekly look back at Surrey-area landmark sites and events

One day soon, the right buyer might be found for a notorious Surrey building that has sat empty for more than two decades.

The four-storey 104 Avenue Centre, a 271,000-square-foot complex located on the Whalley/Guildford border, was constructed in 1998, but no long-term tenant has ever been found, making for something of a real-estate oddity in Surrey.

The block-long property remains for sale, with an appraised 2019 value of $72.4 million, according to Ron Emerson, the Vancouver-area representative of Arizona-based building owner Donald Pitt.

Emerson says a potential buyer was recently found, with documents signed and subjects to be removed last week, but the deal has not yet been confirmed.

“Negotiations are ongoing, they’re active,” Emerson said as he gave the Now-Leader a rare look inside the building, long a source of fascination for Surrey residents.

“We know people are very interested in this building,” Emerson added. “It’s a great building, it really is, and right now it’s good timing. The commercial market in Surrey is strong. There are people who are looking for space like this, with the underground parking here, two levels. There are almost 700 stalls down there.”

Today, the building’s long corridors of concrete floors are scattered with some piles of drywall, insulation, electrical equipment and not much else.

(Story continues below video)

In the late-1990s, developers of the building originally planned for an Asian-themed “showmart” facility. Pitt, an Arizona-based lawyer who helped launch the Phoenix Suns NBA basketball team decades ago, bought the building in the mid-2000s. Building construction was completed at that time, and since then, prospective renters and/or buyers have included Fraser Health, Simon Fraser University and RCMP, but all deals eventually didn’t happen.

Potential uses pitched for the building have included banquet hall, office space, homes, restaurants, bowling alley, even an auto-sales lot on the ground floor, according to Emerson.

“We’ve rented it to movie companies on a regular basis over the years,” he noted. “I’m not a movie guy, so I don’t know what. The movie guys call me regularly.”

Anita Huberman, CEO of Surrey Board of Trade, recalls attending gala events at The Asian Centre, as the building was originally known on that stretch of 104th Avenue, between 141st and 142nd streets.

“The mayor’s ball was there, when Dianne (Watts) was mayor,” Huberman said. “They had a couple events in there, but there was no plumbing in the building so I remember they had to bring in everything at quite a cost – the heating, water, portable washrooms. The plumbing just never got done in that building.”

(Story continues below realtor-filmed video)

JLL Presents: 104th Avenue Centre | Surrey, BC | Canada from Aprile C on Vimeo.

Among many others, Huberman has long viewed the building as an abandoned eyesore, a structure very much in need of a tenant, or tenants.

“We’ve even advocated for the City of Surrey to purchase it, but the then-Surrey City Development Corporation said their focus is on the downtown core, so there was no interest from them to revitalize that corridor, that building,” Huberman said.

“Having tenants in there would revitalize 104th Avenue, you know, and it would be so important to the future of our city, for jobs, for new businesses.

“I was on a tour of building just prior to the pandemic, and all the pipes are rusted, and whoever buys it has to put in major tenant improvements,” Huberman added. “It’s a great building and there’s lots of parking, underground, and it has so much potential, but it’s been sitting empty for so long.”

On reddit.com last year, the building was lampooned as a “#20YearChallenge” subject, with the same photo from the years 2000 and 2020.

(Story continues below)

Surrey’s 104 Avenue Centre’s #20YearChallenge from r/SurreyBC

A sales brochure posted to Cushman & Wakefield’s website said the property is being offered without a formal asking price, and that “all interested parties are encouraged to execute and return a confidentiality agreement to gain access to additional Property information including a Confidential Information Memorandum and Data Room.”

Among “salient details,” parking includes 675 underground stalls and 42 surface stalls, two full-sized loading docks and gross taxes totalling $296,627 for 2019.

Adds the listing: “The combination of significant existing improvements coupled with remarkable redevelopment potential in one of the fastest growing cities in Canada, makes the offering a unique and attractive investment and/or redevelopment opportunity.”

• RELATED STORY, from 2018: Surrey building that has gathered dust for 20 years is for sale again.

When built in the late-1990s, the Asian Centre involved a partner, Hank Cheng, who was among Surrey Board of Trade directors at the time, according to Huberman.

“He left and moved to China, and you know, there was a consortium of partners that built it,” she explained. “It was supposed to be an Asian Centre, like a Richmond market concept, and they had high hopes. I remember it quite well. They ran out of money and the project fell apart.”

• READ MORE: Surrey church group has big dreams for long-vacant building on 104th Avenue.

In 2016, officials with the Surrey-based City Dream Centre organization toured 104 Avenue Centre and pitched it as a future complex to help the city’s “underprivileged and marginalized” residents get the food, clothing, job skills, health care and housing they require.

The proposed facility was modelled on Los Angeles’ Dream Center, founded in 1994 as a volunteer-driven organization that “finds and fills the needs of over 80,000 individuals and families each month,” according to its website, dreamcenter.org.

Surrey Now & Then is a weekly look back at Surrey-area landmark sites and events, and how they evolved over the years. Email story ideas and tips to tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com. We thank Surrey Archives for assistance with this series.

CLICK HERE to read more Surrey Now & Then stories in this series, or see some below:

‘Spy house’ now a pub, a dream project of man who didn’t live to see it open.

Rickshaw sign stands as a reminder of Jung family’s restaurant days.

Peace Arch monument turns 100, but party plans paused.

‘Pachinko’ filming now the focus of former newspaper press building.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

City of SurreyHeritagehistorySurrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary. March 2021. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Reports of student attendance ‘dwindling’ at Surrey schools: teachers’ association

STA president said he’s heard from staff that students might not attend in-person for 4th quarter

(Photo: MOSAIC/Facebook)
Organization receives $10K from B.C. government to tackle racism in Surrey, White Rock

Funding to go toward forum for International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

A police officer aims a radar gun at oncoming traffic during a school-zone speed trap traffic blitz outside Peace Arch Elementary in 2017. (File photo)
White Rock council heeds residents’ plea for better speed signage

Roper Avenue concerns note proximity of two elementary schools

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read