The Surrey Museum’s promised expansion is finally getting underway, with design plans nearly ready to share with the public, a broad timeline for construction, and a bold new feel and vision for the future.
The expansion is the museum’s first major upgrade since it opened in 2005 in Cloverdale, and aims to create a dynamic, interactive, family-friendly space that reflects Surrey’s rich past, culturally diverse present and its future as a city of innovation and creativity.
“We will definitely be breaking ground in January. It may be sooner,” Museum Manager Lynn Saffery said Friday, as many new details were revealed for the first time since the project was added to the city’s five year capital plan. It’s hoped the project will be complete by mid-2018.
Saffery said the Surrey Museum will re-open as a community hub where people can tour the galleries, take part in programming or hang out with friends or relax, inside or out.
“This is first and foremost a community space,” he said.
The $10 million project will add 12,000 square feet of additional space by building out from the drum or spiral-shaped, two storey building. The new wing will include a flexible gallery that will allow the museum to host national and international exhibits and would also be used for community celebrations.
The expansion will also create public spaces for special events, along with more room for community-curated cultural exhibits and a Kids Gallery that will triple in size.
State-of-the-art technologies for exploration, maker spaces and DYI labs are also on the list, providing more ways for Surrey residents to tell their stories, with the museum balancing its own content with the many cultures comprising the city.
“When phase two is done, people will come here and see themselves reflected in the museum. You’re not going to see only old cars and blacksmithing equipment,” he said. “We are going to see really large community exhibits.”
The project architect is HCMA Architecture and Design, which also designed the new Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre that opened earlier this year.
The final design for phase two could be chosen by the end of summer, in advance of a town hall meeting for public input in September, setting the stage to break ground by year’s end.
While nothing is yet set in stone, Saffery, pictured at left, said the expansion would likely be T-shaped, with a flexible exhibit space fronting 56A Avenue that would be connected via a causeway to the existing museum.
Building materials would feature glass and wood, creating spaces with an indoor/outdoor feel, are walkable and “very friendly feeling,” he said. “People will feel like they will enjoy spending time here.”
Functional upgrades include creating larger collections storage, a fabrication workshop and humidity and climate controls to better preserve artifacts. The atrium and planned moving walls will encourage museum-goers and the wider community to use the space for their leisure.
The launch of phase two represents a long-awaited chapter for the museum, which is currently 24,000 square feet; its size was scaled back when it was built due to cost constraints – on the understanding a second phase would follow within a decade.
“When this was built, we didn’t have the funds to do what we wanted to do,” he said.
It’s welcome news for the Friends of the Surrey Museum and Archives Society, which raised $1.6 million in a public campaign to build the museum, and its members have kept up gentle pressure behind the scenes ever since in support of phase two.
The society now sponsors free admission to the museum, something it’s hoped will continue post-expansion.
Saffery said along with art galleries and libraries, civic museums are cultural investments that reap benefits for the entire city in terms of attracting finance and development, along with creating happier, safer communities because they help people understand themselves and others in a city that’s now the second largest in B.C.
“We really need to see these cultural institutions to bloom,” Saffery said.
“It’s really the foundation of developing the infrastructure needed to serve this really rapidly-growing population. We need to grow into our standing as a major city.”