Criticism of Mayor Dianne Watts and council of the plan to create a new city hall as part of the revitalization of Surrey City Centre went as far as a rival mayoralty candidate declaring he would “shut down the project.”
As a developer involved in City Centre and with plans for further construction, I felt compelled to provide a more encouraging perspective.
As Surrey grows, so will city hall grow to provide the services its citizens expect. City halls once formed important icons in the centre of civic life, together with town squares, libraries and post offices. City staff were not distant bureaucrats but frequented the same coffee shops on the same “Main Street” as the citizens they served.
The decision long ago to create the current Surrey City Hall was an unfortunate break from this tradition and, in its current location and with its many employees, adds nothing to the life and economy of any of Surrey’s existing town centres.
I would suggest the plan to start fresh as part of the transformation of Surrey City Centre is a unique opportunity and the commitment to build it has already paid large dividends for Surrey. And construction has only just begun.
Following Surrey’s lead, a number of public entities are reinforcing Surrey’s investment in the City Centre. Consider the growth of Simon Fraser University’s City Centre campus, the soon-to-open RCMP E-Division and the Jim Pattison Outpatient Clinic. Surrey Memorial Hospital’s new Critical Care Tower alone is the largest single investment in health care in the history of the province of British Columbia.
All of these investment decisions by provincial and federal agencies benefit the citizens of Surrey with recession-proof employment and important services close by. In attracting these investments in jobs and public infrastructure, Mayor Watts and council understand that if you want federal and provincial tax dollars invested in your community, Surrey must itself be willing to invest to create the conditions for success – the kind of City Centre business and public institutions will be proud to call home.
I have no doubt the commitment to invest in civic infrastructure such as for city hall and the new library provided the framework for those other investment decisions in Surrey City Centre.
Mayor Watts and council should be congratulated, not condemned, for that leadership.
Sean Hodgins, president