Not yet, but soon.
That’s the message Surrey City Development Corp. officials had for the small but persistent crowd that turned out to hear an update on plans to redevelop the former Cloverdale mall site.
The event was billed as an annual public information meeting to discuss the corporation’s mandate and projects, including the Cloverdale Mall redevelopment.
But attendees – a mix that included representatives from the Cloverdale BIA, Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce, Cloverdale Community Association and Surrey city council – only wanted to hear about one project: The long-promised plan to redevelop the city property in phases as a blend of commercial and residential units, helping to revitalize the historic Cloverdale downtown.
The dilapidated mall was torn down in 2011 to make way for redevelopment, but the initial phase – which would have housed a new Legion hall for Cloverdale Branch 6 along with new commercial and residential units – hit a snag: environmental contamination from former dry cleaning operations.
Ongoing remediation efforts to clean up soil contamination have delayed the project, however SCDC officials are optimistic that progress is being made.
Phase one partner Townline has agreed to develop the southwest corner of the site, becoming fee simple owner of the parcel on July 1. The company is looking to build a four-storey residential and commercial development that’s expected to break ground in the first quarter of 2016, SCDC president and CEO Aubrey Kelly said.
The second developer is Mosaic, which is seriously looking to build on the section directly north of the Cloverdale Legion, a parcel that can’t be developed until environmental remediation is complete on a section of contaminated soil.
Fresh from a small business week walkabout earlier in the day in Cloverdale, Surrey Coun. Dave Woods said merchants and businesses have a lot of questions surrounding the project.
Woods said it’s imperative SCDC post detailed updates on its website to enable the public to keep up-to-date, “Because the misinformation in the community is that there is no remediation happening.”
The mall redevelopment , he added, “Is a hot button issue in this community. ”
The contamination was localized, said Jaret Lang, development manager. Once discovered, the contaminated material was removed, he said, but subsequent testing found there was still some source contamination, resulting in additional remediation efforts. Rather than excavate further, it was decided to use a bioremediation process that “works well, but takes longer,” Lang said.
It’s expected to take another 18 months to complete.
Meantime, SCDC is seeking to re-designate the site as “contaminated,” which will allow developer Mosaic to begin applying for development permits at city hall.
“One of the things we feel good about is they have a lot of experience in dealing with contaminated sites,” Kelly said.
“Once we get to the downgrade of ‘contaminated’ the nice thing is they can actually start dealing with development permit issuing,” he said. “It’s not a lost 18 months.”
The site’s zoning and geotechnical conditions – including a clay soil – are limiting factors in terms of building higher density. Without the ability to build an underground parkade, the height and building density of any future development on the site are limited.
“In City Centre, if we had the exact same site, we’d be under way already,” noted Kelly.
The need for better transit in Cloverdale was also highlighted.
Condo developers, hotel operators, restaurateurs and first-time home buyers all consider transit when deciding on a location, and until Cloverdale is better served, it will lag behind other areas of Surrey, Kelly said.
“The most important thing Cloverdale needs to develop – whether it’s residential, commercial – is great transit options,” Kelly said. “If I were a resident of Cloverdale, I’d be banging that drum: we need transit.”
Leaving downtown Cloverdale off the map in terms of future transit expansion – notably the proposed LRT line from Surrey to Langley City along Fraser Highway and through Clayton – has repercussions for future development in the historic town centre.
“You don’t really have that critical mass of residential around here,” said Lang. “That is what needs to happen here.”