Big changes are afoot in Surrey’s City Centre as another developer has received the green light to build towers in the area that’s being transformed into the next downtown core for the Metro Vancouver region.
On Monday, Surrey council gave its blessing to the first phase of a development project that, if all approved, will include seven towers, townhouses and an outdoor plaza near 102nd Avenue and King George Boulevard.
As phase one of seven, Anthem Properties plans to build a 30-storey tower with 342 apartments and ground floor commercial, as well as nine two-storey townhouses for its proposed “Georgetown” development on the southern portion of a 10-acre property at 13665 102nd Ave.
Surrey council gave the first phase of the project third reading on Monday, after much public support was expressed at a public hearing.
While phases two through seven are intended to be developed as future projects, Anthem hoped Monday to “obtain a level of certainty from council that the proposed density and development concept for phases two through seven is acceptable.” It’s a similar approach taken on comparable “master plan” developments in the area such as West Village and Flamingo Block, which will see that area transformed into Surrey’s “Yaletown” according to developer Tien Sher.
It seems Anthem’s got it.
“I don’t see any reason that we won’t be talking about the finale of all of this… It had virtually no opposition,” Councillor Mike Starchuk told the Now-Leader Tuesday, describing the project as “almost a community on its own.”
“There’s going to be thousands more families living in the downtown core,” he added.
“There’s so much street animation, so much walkability, bikeability,” said Starchuk. “Their intent is to make it walkable with small boutique shops and they want to be able to accommodate the Save-On Foods and Canadian Tire (which are tenants on the property right now).”
Starchuk also praised the amenities in the project, from a theatre-style projection set-up with covered seating available if the weather is poor, to a plaza and playground, to space that could even be used for a farmer’s market.
The nostalgia in the name piqued his interest as well.
“The word George,” Starchuk said. “They didn’t want to call it King George, but when they were talking about this Georgetown name I told them when I go back to my early days working in Whalley, we called King George Boulevard ‘The George.’ So the word George is kind of nostalgic.”
Anthem’s “master plan” involves ultimately subdividing the property into seven lots in order to create a mixed-use community, complete with a “significant public open space plaza” at the centre of the site.
Phase two includes one 32-storey and one 32-storey tower with ground floor commercial, and phase three includes a six-storey residential building with ground floor commercial centred on a large public plaza.
A 41-storey tower is proposed in phase four, a 39-storey tower with office space in phase five and a 45-storey high-rise with office space in phase six.
Finally, a 15-storey mid-rise residential building with ground floor commercial space as phase seven.
The project’s landscape architect, Jennifer Stamp, told council of many efforts made in public open spaces.
Stamp said it’s hoped the commercial at ground-level can have many restaurants.
“It’s thought there could be market days or sidewalk sales, we’re trying to provide a flexibility of use,” she added.
Stamp also spoke of a children’s place area, a plaza, water feature, a pavilion with shade trees and seating, as well as walkways and bikeways.
“I think the other thing to mention is that there is going to be a lot of what we refer to as body heat in this community,” Stamp told council ahead of their vote. “We’re adding a heck of a lot of residents and I think this is what we all vision as a positive step toward this neighbourhood in supporting the businesses that are already there and also providing affordable options in different housing options within the city for residents who want to be here.”
Mike Nielsen, who runs Sprite Multimedia six blocks away from the proposed development, said Anthem’s proposal will “continue the positive momentum” in the area. He said the public gathering place int he middle of the complex will “really build community.”
Also speaking in support was Bill Rempel, vice president and general manager for Blackwood Partners that operates Central City Shopping Centre just 200 metres away.
“We fully support the master plan developed for this site,” Rempel told Surrey council Monday, noting the project “may very well attract new investors and interest in the growth of our great community.”
A man named Constantine who identified himself as strata president of a development near 142A Street and 108th Avenue said “there’s no question that we would definitely be supporting” the project.
“Number one being the trustworthy developer, and we see that they’re genuine in their efforts but it’s fantastic in terms of how this region and this city is changing and a project like this does seem to have a very exciting value in terms of incorporating the needs of this community,” he told councillors.
Rob Blackwell, senior vice-president of Anthem Properties, told city council ahead of their approval that it’s hard to predict how long the entire project would take to complete.
“The first phase, if given approval, would take three years from breaking grounds to completion and each phase is of a similar period of time,” he explained. “If the market is robust we can go through faster and have a quicker overall pace but I would estimate overall that we would be looking at something like seven or eight years.”
A report to council notes Save-On Foods and Canadian Tire will continue to operate, on the northern side of the site, where future phases are proposed to be built, approximately 325 metres away from Surrey Central SkyTrain Station across King George Boulevard.
In phase one, the apartments are to range in size from 359 to 686 square feet, according to the application, in a variety of housing types including 85 studio units, 172 one-bedroom units and 85 two-bedroom units.
A report to council notes the density and building form are appropriate for the area, and state it “forms part of an emerging high-density mixed-use hub that will be complementary to the City of Surrey Civic Centre to the west.”
The application complies with the Official Community plan, as well as density set out in the Surrey City Centre plan, a staff report states.