Council delays King George rental tower renewal project

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A proposal to revitalize an existing rental tower and create 63 new rental units at King George Blvd & 98th Avenue was stalled by Surrey’s new Council on Monday, after being denied 1st & 2nd readings for not looking satisfactory enough, in Council’s opinion. The application, which is proposing to convert an existing 3-storey commercial building on site to rental residential, and upgrade the exterior of the 18-storey tower behind it, was sent back to staff to work with the applicant on unspecified revisions.

Designed in partnership with MCM Architects and PWL Landscape Architects, the project would bring a welcome facelift to the existing buildings on site, originally completed in 1982, as well as improve the surrounding streetscape. Aside from aesthetic upgrades, the primary objective of the project is to create 63 new rental units on site through the conversion of the existing 3-storey commercial building along King George Blvd. Details of the proposed upgrades include:

  • Modernization and conversion of the existing low-rise commercial building to rental residential. Exterior cladding to be replaced with new materials consisting of high quality white fibre cement panels, and charcoal seam metal cladding.
  • Landscaping along King George Blvd enhanced and modified to suit residential use and layout
  • New plaza at the north-east corner of the site to help activate the streetscape along King George Blvd
  • The existing 18-storey tower to receive new exterior paint and glass balcony rail replacements with colour enhancements.
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Proposed exterior upgrades and residential conversion along King George Blvd
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Elevation of proposal looking north along King George Blvd

Despite the high quality materials proposed, and thoughtfully designed plan which works within the given site constraints, Council was of the opinion that the design was not suitable enough to be allowed to proceed. Without giving any specific recommendations on how to improve the design, the project was sent back to staff to work with the applicant on revisions to the plan, despite staff already working closely with the design team to date. The building’s modernization, and the delivery of new rental units to City Centre is now delayed pending unclear revisions, until the project can return to Council for consideration once again.

The conversion is supported by Surrey Staff as the existing commercial building has long suffered from poor vacancy rates and high tenant turn-over due to physical attributes of the building, and its poor integration with the neighbourhood. The proposed residential use is seen as appropriate for this location, being across from a SkyTrain station and the developing context of the area.

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Proposed site plan including public realm and streetscape enhancements

The Surrey Village Tower currently contains 227 rental units in the existing 18-storey tower, managed by RealStar. The addition of the proposed 63 new units would bring the total rental units to 290.

Iconic 3-tower ‘Gateway’ project to hold Public Information Meeting

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A Public Information Meeting is being held Thursday to present a revised concept for a 3-tower ‘gateway’ project proposed for the north end of City Centre at King George Blvd and Bolivar Rd . The project, which initially appeared before Council last April, has been undergoing revisions ever since, after being sent back to staff to work with the applicant on refining the plan. The project is situated on a site designated for 4-6 storey (2.5 FAR) density under the City Centre Plan, therefore an amendment is required to permit the proposed towers (with a density of up to 4.2 FAR).

The revised plan, being put forth by a developer known as ‘New Great Land Developing’ and designed by Vancouver’s MCM Architects, features 3 staggered towers ranging in height from 23 to 34 storeys above 6 storey podiums along King George Blvd, as well as 2 additional 6-storey buildings along Barker Street. While the general concept is similar to that presented in April, the buildings have been revised to now resemble a ‘stacked box’ design, integrated with a high quality public realm at the base of the site designed by Vancouver’s PWL Landscape Architects. This includes a proposed ‘gateway’ plaza at the corner of Bolivar Rd and King George Blvd, an interior courtyard, and public pedestrian connection through the site linking King George Blvd to Barker Street.

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While plans at this stage are still preliminary, subject to more detailed design, it is anticipated that the project will be primarily residential focused with a mix of market condos, rental units, and some limited commercial space for a cafe and neighbourhood-serving retail. A cafe / restaurant is envisioned to help enliven the public realm / pedestrian area through the site.

Following Thursday’s Public Information Meeting, the project will continue with more detailed design in preparation for appearance before Surrey’s Advisory Design Panel (ADP) likely sometime in the Spring. It is expected that the project will be ready to return to Council for preliminary approval by Summer or Fall 2019.

For anyone interested in attending the Public Information Meeting – it is being held Thursday, November 29 between 5-7pm at the Whalley Legion at 13525 106 Ave.

City Centre 3 breaks ground in new Health & Technology District

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Lark Group held a ground breaking ceremony yesterday for their next phase in the Health & Technology District – City Centre 3. The new 10-storey office building will be the latest in a series of 8 planned buildings for the district, home to a network of academics, entrepreneurs, multinational companies, start-ups, and some of the most advanced digital health, wellness, technology, and clinical service organizations in the world.

Situated directly across the street from Surrey Memorial Hospital at 96 Avenue and 137A Street, the tower will contain offices, retail and restaurant services, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, secure underground parking, and a common area rooftop terrace. Completion is expected by 2021.

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The ground breaking ceremony was attended by the newly elected Mayor Doug McCallum, as well as a number of Councillors, representatives from Lark Group, and business leaders involved in the Health & Technology District. While McCallum praised the District as playing “a major contributing role to the economic growth of Surrey” he of course failed to recognize that due to his government’s action, the district will no longer be receiving a rapid transit station as was planned for 96 Avenue with LRT. It’s unfortunate that this significant and growing employment, research, and medical hub will now continue to be serviced by a small bus stop at 96 Avenue and King George Blvd so that SkyTrain can be built along Fraser Hwy serving low density suburban neighbourhoods instead.

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Formerly planned rapid transit station at 96 Avenue in the Health & Technology District that will no longer be built
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Health & Technology District bus stop that will remain as a result of switch to SkyTrain on Fraser Hwy instead

The Health and Technology District is being developed by Lark Group in anticipation of the rapidly growing health and technology sector in B.C. The District has already attracted a large number of innovative health, education and technology organizations to its first 2 buildings – City Centre 1 & 2 – and is becoming a new epicentre for BC’s emerging technology economy.

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View of Health & Technology District along 96 Avenue
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City Centre 3 at 96 Avenue & 137A Street
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Looking north along 137A Street

Registration launches for ‘Centra’ on 101 Ave

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Everest Group has launched a registration page for their upcoming project ‘Centra‘ located on 101 Avenue near 139 Street. The 23-storey tower, which was approved back in 2016, is in essence, the second phase to the adjacent 21-storey Odyssey Tower built in 1993. The site of Centra was originally envisioned for a shorter twin of the Odyssey tower back in the early 1990’s but has sat empty for over 2 decades. The current design for Centra still integrates with the Odyssey site, but no longer resembles the 90’s post-modern architecture of the original tower.

According to the Planning Report that went to Council in 2015, the project will include 167 units including, ranging from studios to three-bedrooms, including 3 townhouse units fronting 101 Avenue.

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For more on the project: http://centrasurrey.com

Rendering released for upcoming tower in West Village

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Rendering of proposed tower from 133A St

Mason Link Development has released a rendering of one of their upcoming projects in City Centre at 133A St & Central Avenue (future). The tower, which is not yet under application (but should be soon), is to be located just behind the new SFU building, replacing some of the last remaining single family homes in the area, and closing the last remaining portion of former 103 Avenue.

In the rendering released, a 26-storey tower is depicted above a townhouse podium fronting 133A St. At the north end of the site, there will be some dedication for the new alignment of Central Avenue. This corner is designated for mixed-use under the City Centre Plan – so retail is possible on the Central Avenue frontage. To the south of the site, there are plans for a covered bus layover facility – which when complete – will allow for the removal of the Surrey Central Bus Loop and re-development of the ‘Central Block’ where the Rec Centre and Bus Loop currently sit. To the east of the site is the currently under construction Prime on the Plaza, and new north-south green lane.

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Subject Site within City Centre Plan
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Conceptual plan for ‘Centre Block’ area showing future Covered Bus Layover Facility and Subject Site

While an application has yet to be submitted, the subject site has been fenced off for a number of months now, with Mason Link signage posted. If an application is submitted within the next year, sales / construction can be expected to commence sometime in the early 2020’s.

Rapid Transit to nowhere – The land-use issue with SkyTrain on Fraser Hwy

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Since my last post on the differences between the proposed LRT and SkyTrain generated much discussion – I felt it would be good to highlight in more detail – the key land-use, route, and scope differences between the 2 routes, and why SkyTrain down Fraser Highway – makes no rational sense from a land-use or planning perspective.

LRT (Phase 1)

The proposed LRT route along 104 Avenue and King George Blvd serves Surrey’s City Centre, 2 largest Town Centres, and 2 most urban corridors, designated to handle the bulk of Surrey’s urban growth and revitalization over the next few decades. The 104 Avenue and King George Corridors contain numerous major trip-generating destinations which include:

  • Surrey City Centre – would be served by 4 LRT stations
  • Guildford Town Centre – Largest Town Centre in Surrey with existing high-rise residential, hotels, offices.
  • Guildford Shopping Centre – 3rd largest shopping centre in Metro Vancouver
  • Guildford – 104 Avenue Corridor PlanCurrently underway land-use plan which will direct increased density, growth, and revitalization along this key corridor linking City Centre and Guildford – would be served by 4 LRT stations.
  • Surrey Memorial Hospital – As well as the emerging Health & Technology District surrounding it would be served by 96th Avenue Station
  • Bear Creek Park / Surrey Art Gallery – and surrounding area would be served by 88th Avenue Station
  • Newton Industrial Area – Large employment area consisting of light industrial, business parks, commercial – would be served by 2 LRT stations.
  • Newton Town Centre – 2nd largest Town Centre in Surrey – already significant retail, offices and planned increased density/growth.

In addition LRT would create 2 vibrant multi-modal transfer hub stations at Surrey Central and King George – integrated into new urban plazas.

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Multi-Modal Transfer Hub Station at Surrey Central integrated into Plaza
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Envisioned Newton Town Centre Plaza with LRT integration

SkyTrain (Phase 1?)

While it is unclear how far down Fraser Hwy SkyTrain could be extended given current funding, an extension to Langley is unlikely within the 1.65 Billion approved budget. As such, the Fraser Highway SkyTrain line would have to be phased, with Phase 1 likely going as far as Fleetwood, and future extension to Langley at a later undermined date (by 2030?). Such a SkyTrain extension down Fraser Highway makes absolutely no rational sense from a land-use or planning perspective. Fleetwood is Surrey’s smallest Town Centre, with no plans for any significant increases in density or growth. Fraser Highway is also a very low density, predominantly single family / strip mall corridor with few trip-generating destinations along the route. The only nodes of significance are:

  • Fleetwood Town Centre – Smallest of Surrey’s Town Centres. The current Fleetwood Town Centre Plan designates this area for modest urban growth, consisting of townhouses, village like commercial, and some 4-6 storey apartments.
  • RCMP E-Division / Jim Pattison Outpatient – The only major destinations along this route would be at the 140th & Fraser Hwy station (assuming a station is proposed at this location)
  • 152 & Fraser Hwy Commercial Area – Currently a low-density strip mall area with no current land-use plans underway for revitalization. A land-use plan to change the density in this area would be necessary given the introduction of rapid transit to the area. This would present a major change to the Surrey OCP and where future density/growth directed to in Surrey.

In addition, a Fraser Highway SkyTrain extension would lack any vibrant multi-modal transfer hub stations centered on plazas. A missed opportunity for city building / urban revitalization.

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Likely 3-stop ‘Phase 1’ SkyTrain extension to Fleetwood with current funding
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Likely terminus of Phase 1 Fraser Hwy SkyTrain extension in Fleetwood

Timeline?

  • LRT is scheduled to begin construction in 2019 with the 10.5km Phase 1 completed by 2024.
  • SkyTrain would need to start from scratch in 2019, beginning with at least 2 years of design, planning, consultation. New land-use plans would have to be initiated along the route – as land-use must be planned in cohesion with rapid transit. A 5.5 km Phase 1 extension of SkyTrain to Fleetwood could likely be completed by 2026.

By 2030 – assuming a second round of funding is made available – there are 2 possible scenarios for rapid transit in Surrey:

Scenario 1 – Surrey’s 2030 Rapid Transit Network – LRT

Scenario 1 would see 27km of rapid transit built in Surrey, serving both the Guildford – Newton corridors, as well as the Fraser Highway corridor to Langley.

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Scenario 2 – Surrey’s 2030 Rapid Transit Network – SkyTrain

Scenario 2 would see 15.5km of rapid transit built serving only the Fraser Highway corridor to Langley. Guildford and Newton – Surrey’s 2 largest and most urban centre’s would have no rapid transit. While Doug McCallum does mention a future SkyTrain extension down King George Highway to Newton – this is unlikely until the Langley extension is complete – so post 2030.

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Best way to spend $1.65 Billion?

Each of these scenarios costs the same $1.65 Billion price tag.

  • Which option do you think provides more value to Surrey?
  • Which option will result in the most rapid transit for Surrey by 2030?
  • Which option will best integrate with the neighbourhoods it passes through, create a sense of place, and be a catalyst for vibrant communities? Rather than just a means of by-passing Surrey to get somewhere else.
  • Which communities should be prioritized for rapid transit?