SURREY — Yes, kids, Surrey’s newest hotel has a pool – an outdoor one, in fact, on a fourth-level deck with view of neighbouring buildings, the plaza below and probably sunsets, too.
When it opens in a couple months, Civic Hotel will make a splash as the first new highrise hotel built in Surrey in two decades.
The 144-room inn is just one component of 3 Civic Plaza, a mixed-use project that also includes a 348-suite residential tower and five-floor KPU campus, all adjacent to Surrey City Hall and hovering above Surrey Central SkyTrain station, which is currently being rebuilt.
The hotel logo, with a stylized diamond serving as the ‘V’ in Civic, can be seen atop the project’s massive, 52-storey residential tower, not on the smaller, 23-storey hotel building located below, to the south. When the boutique hotel opens its doors, the tower’s sign will be lit up.
“That is the highest commercial sign in all of British Columbia, and we had quite a challenge around engineering to get it that high up,” said David Laulainen, director of communications and marketing for Century Group.
The Surrey-based company developed the project and also owns and operates the independent hotel, which has licensed Marriott Autograph Collection branding and reservation system.
Last week, Laulainen gave the Now-Leader an exclusive tour of the hotel, which is scheduled to open in March. The university’s new hub and residential suites will spring to life later this year.
On Jan. 17, a buffet lunch of butter chicken was served in the hotel lobby for construction crews working to finish the building interior, which buzzed with the sound of drills, saws and hammers.
“It’s something we do here every Wednesday,” said Laulainen, who bellied up to the bar for the informal lunch at what will be Dominion Bar + Kitchen, located off the hotel lobby.
The restaurant menu, created by executive chef Brad Green, will focus on “New Canadian entrées, appetizers and classic favourites,” according to its website, dominionkitchen.com.
“We’ll have an outdoor deck, and all the beer and wine on tap here will be B.C. products,” Laulainen noted.
In fact, the hotel itself will be very much B.C.-themed, as outlined in a 40-page “Celebrating British Columbia” booklet to be given to hotel guests.
Sixteen themed floors will each represent a region of the province, and each guest room is named after a place in that region, with wall mural/map to match.
In the corner “Abbotsford” room, located on the Metro Vancouver floor, guests will have a southwest view of the Central City Tower, the top floor of which is occupied by Century Group headquarters.
“What’s cool is,” Laulainen explained, “we’re working on a system where people can aim their phones at the dot in the middle of this map – it might look like just wallpaper, but we want it to have a function, a hidden secret, where if you hold up your phone to the dot, and up comes an overlay on the phone to give the user data, photos, video, all kinds of content about the city you’re in, here in Surrey, and the place represented in the room.”
Construction of 3 Civic Plaza, tabbed as a $200-million project, began in early 2013, and Century Group’s agreement with Marriott International was announced later that year.
“We worked hard to find the right hotel partner for Civic Hotel, and Autograph Collection is a natural fit,” Sean Hodgins, president of Century Group, said at the time. “It allows us to create a boutique and independent feel for the hotel, while at the same time sharing in the benefits of Marriott’s global sales and marketing channels.”
Civic Hotel will cater primarily to the corporate and leisure markets. The hotel’s Civic Grand Ballroom will offer 2,400 square feet of banquet space, enough for close to 275 dinner guests or 500 standees at a reception. A smaller Boulevard Ballroom and two meeting rooms are located on the same floor.
Once opened, the hotel and other facets of 3 Civic Plaza will help activate the neighbouring Surrey Civic Plaza, which connects it to city hall and City Centre Library.
Of note, 3 Civic Plaza is advertised as Surrey’s first mixed-use hotel and residential project, one Century Group built in partnership with SCDC, or Surrey City Development Corporation. “They helped activate this vision to make it happen,” Laulainen explained.
Ultimately, Century Group aims to have the hotel and other parts of 3 Civic Plaza serve as “the next part of Surrey’s transition” as B.C.’s next urban centre, according to Laulainen.
“How Central City was in its day, this is that new signal to the rest of Metro Vancouver that Surrey City Centre is a hip, happening place,” he said.
“Surrey is truly innovating and reinventing its downtown core,” Laulainen added, “and I can’t think of any other city centre in Canada, and maybe in the United States, too, that is having its downtown core reinvented like Surrey is. I’d like people to realize just how unique that is. We are part of that, and it’s exciting.”
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Guildford hotel still the largest in Surrey
When the 144-room Civic Hotel opens, it won’t become Surrey’s largest in terms of number of rooms.
That honour still belongs to the 279-room Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel, which is currently undergoing an extensive $12.5-million renovation.
“Renovations to all public spaces, meeting spaces, bathrooms, hallways, the Club Lounge and the Club & SPG level rooms have already been completed,” says a post on the hotel website devoted to the reno project. “Renovations to Fresh Restaurant & Lounge is expected to be completed shortly, and the remaining rooms will also be undergoing renovations, with the estimated completion date of March 2018.”
South Surrey’s Pacific Inn, which has 150 rooms, is being renovated and rebranded as a Double Tree by Hilton, according to Cathy James, executive director of Discover Surrey, the city’s tourism organization.
Surrey has a total of 1,511 hotel and motel rooms combined, she said.
“That number makes Surrey under-served for rooms,” James told the Now-Leader.
“But I think you’ll see changes,” she added, “and (hotel builders) are showing more interest in Surrey. I think we’ll see some more properties built here in the next few years, especially with additional sports facilities being built, such as Grandview pool and the new arena in the Bridgeview area.”
Added James: “We’re really excited about Civic Hotel opening soon, we hope, and it’ll certainly serve a market in the North Surrey area that has been desperate for properties.”