Watts unveils $97-million city hall

CITY CENTRE – Surrey’s new city hall is open for business.

At the media tour Tuesday, Watts called the new hall an “iconic piece of architecture” and praised the hard work that the designers and construction workers have put into the 180,000-square-foot building over the last two years.

“This is really an exciting time for the City of Surrey here… as part of the transformation of the metropolitan core, and to really look at how we function as a city of over half a million people,” said Mayor Dianne Watts.

The six-storey hall houses 750 city staff across its numerous departments, as well as public services like daycare, community meeting rooms and a council chambers that doubles as a theatre for local arts groups.

“It was important to make sure that there were many community aspects built into the city hall,” said Watts.

Construction workers were still hustling around during the tour, piecing together the chambers and the mayor’s office, and putting finishing touches on the building.

City manager Vincent Lalonde said the hall was 95 per cent complete, and that the city ensured that all city services were available for the set opening date of Feb. 17.

The hall was originally scheduled to open last September, but was bumped to December and then February due to unforeseen obstacles in the construction process. The 2013 Mayor’s Charity Ball in October was expected to take place inside the new hall, but was instead held just outside on the community plaza in dining tents.

According to Watts, the construction of the new hall has spurred $3 billion of investment from the private sector since it was first announced.

When asked about the $97-million price tag for the new hall, Watts repeated that the lease of the old city hall will cover $37 million of the cost, and noted that the tax revenue generated from the nearby private investments “far exceeds what we’ve paid for city hall.”

Lalonde assured reporters that the provincial government, which has thus far agreed to lease about one third of the old hall for 22 years, is expected to eventually lease the entire building.

“We do expect… that over time, the province will take over the entirety of the complex because it’s centrally located with the RCMP, the pretrial and all the court services that are there,” he said.