Placemaking for progress in Surrey

Downtown Surrey BIA interns have plenty of ideas on how to spruce up city core

An energy carousel is one of the many place-making ideas being bandied around for Surrey’s city core.

SURREY — Imagine a chandelier of hanging ropes, a forest of revolving swings, a meeting place for different age groups that swivels and produces coloured light in the evenings.

The kinetic energy released by people hanging and turning on the ropes is captured in the carousel structure and stored in a battery underneath the play site.

When the sun goes down, the carousel’s battery kicks into operation and emits light. Just how much light will depend on how much play took place that day.

The energy carousel exists in Amsterdam and some interns at the Downtown Surrey BIA want to see one in Surrey.

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It’s all about placemaking, they explain. It’s something they think will put Surrey on the map.

Placemaking isn’t a new phenomenon in Surrey. In fact, it’s been popping up in recent years and seems to be just one way the community is taking charge of its space.

Eyeballs on tree stumps and a chessboard carved in a tree stump in The Grove in Newton next to the wave pool were some of the first examples. That quirky activity began in the wake of the death of hockey mom Julie Paskall just outside the arena.

A handful of locals were behind the initiative and it has blossomed to include art and craft shows, community events and a whole lot more.

“It’s about taking a space that may be neglected or may be undervalued for its physical beauty or maybe it’s just avoided because it’s a place where dangerous things happen and sort of reclaiming that as public space in a positive way,” said David Dalley, a community advocate.

Placemaking is about doing things that are “a little bit edgy,” Dalley added.

The Downtown Surrey BIA interns have a plethora of ideas on how to spruce up the city’s core.

From an “umbrella walk” at Surrey Central SkyTrain to outdoor fitness classes in Holland Park to decorative crosswalks to community intersection painting, they came up with some pretty unique ideas.

There was even the idea of setting up a place to make bubble sculptures where people can make short-lived shapes out of bubbles – that one’s from Amsterdam as well.

“It’s basically just making Surrey a destination place,” said intern Melissa Youds.

“Everyone says, ‘Let’s head downtown to do this.’ But there’s not a lot happening in Surrey right now. It’s really important that we generate all these ideas and show people the potential because we have so much space and there’s going to be a million people moving into the Lower Mainland in the next 30 years. It’s important we make use of the spaces.

“They range from instalments to public art and we even talked about having a band on a roof – things that will get people talking about the city.”

Downtown Surrey BIA manager Bonnie Burnside said, “We’re not selling Surrey City Centre or downtown Surrey as a great place to be so you can get on a SkyTrain and go to Vancouver. For so many years that seems to be what we’ve been selling.

“What we have to do is create a situation where people are happy to be here and placemaking is just one piece.

“We want Surrey to be seen as a destination place in the future.”

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com

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