Another step in “a long, long journey” was taken on Surrey’s landmark Flamingo site Monday (May 16), during a tower groundbreaking ceremony.
The 1950s-era Whalley hotel, demolished three years ago, will in three years be replaced by residential and office space in a Flamingo One development billed as “Canada’s first 15-minute City,” near the corner of 108 Avenue and King George Boulevard.
The Tien Sher company’s redevelopment plans involve a 35-storey high-rise and other buildings.
“We have been rebuilding Whalley for the last 15 years,” said company president Charan Sethi, “and we are now taking the next step of the revitalization with Flamingo One — the first of four iconic towers.”
The “walkable community” is designed to bring 3,000-plus residents and new businesses to the neighborhood.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum and Doug MacFarlane, president and CEO of ITC Construction Group, also spoke during Monday’s groundbreaking event.
“I don’t know whether to shout, like the mayor did, or scream, it’s so exciting,” Sethi said. “It’s been a long, long journey.
“This is an amazing moment in my life, my team’s life and my family’s as well, and I’m so happy to be here and part of the change.”
Shovels toss dirt at site of Surrey’s new Flamingo development. “Hit Tom,” Coun. Laurie Guerra jokes (I think). 😆
Three-year project to build 3 towers as high as 35 storeys, with 900,000 person hours of employment, says ITC Group boss Doug McFarlane. pic.twitter.com/69EXFIXQTd
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) May 16, 2022
The Flamingo Hotel went out with a bang in June 2019, when hundreds of people showed up for a “demolition event party.” With a “ceremonial hit” of an excavator, the crowd was treated to a pyrotechnics show.
Last November, the project’s first tower sold 365 homes in a $200-million-plus sales period over two days, according to the development company.
The previous January, Surrey city council decided to allow Tien Sher to incorporate office space into a portion of its Flamingo Block development originally designated for residential units.
The construction of Flamingo One will involve 900,000 person hours of employment, according to MacFarlane.
Sethi recalled the time his company first bought land in Whalley in the mid-2000s, with plans to redevelop.
“Word spread very quickly that we bought the land, and all I got was negative comments – comments from people that I know, people that are much higher than I am in society, saying, ‘There’s something wrong with you, why are buying into that area?’” Sethi recalled. “It was pretty incredible. For somebody who is weaker, they probably would have given up and walked away from the whole thing. But never tell me it can’t be done, don’t tell me that, because I’ll make it happen.”
With the help of the city, “we are writing Whalley’s history right now,” Sethi added.
“By making these changes we’ve changed the course of Whalley itself. This area will be an inclusive neighbourhood to live, learn, work and play. That’s the whole idea around this area. I’m not building condominiums, we’re actually building a community which has livable space, office space, commercial space, and hopefully we’ll be moving forward (with) an application to have one of the streets be a pedestrian street, where people can actually walk the street itself and enjoy those nice days and evenings.