25-Storey ‘Central City II’ Office Tower heads to Council

The much anticipated ‘Central City II’ office tower will appear before Surrey Council on Monday for 1st & 2nd readings, as part of the first Council meeting since the summer break. Designed by ZGF Architects, the 25-storey (116.5m / 382 ft.) building will be the successor to the iconic Bing Thom designed ‘Central City I’, built in 2003, and bring much needed new office space to Surrey City Centre. Taking design cues from the original tower, while at the same time having its own distinctive architectural expression, the new building will be located just to the south-east of Central City I at the corner of King George Blvd and Old Yale Rd.

In all, the building is proposed to include:

  • 567,114 sq.ft. of AAA Office Space and Fitness Club on levels 2-25
  • 16,168 sq.ft. of ground-oriented retail, restaurant, and cafe space
  • Landscaped roof terraces on levels 3, 5, 10, 21, and 24
  • A new dedication of City Parkway
  • A new private east-west lane along the north side of the building connecting City Parkway to King George Blvd
  • Plazas and Separated Bike Lanes surrounding the building along King George Blvd, Old Yale Rd, and City Parkway
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View looking South along SkyTrain Guideway
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View Looking South-West along King George Blvd
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View looking North-West at corner of King George Blvd & Old Yale Rd
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South and East Elevations
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West and North Elevations

In terms of design, the building consists of a 25-storey tower with distinctive rust-toned metal panels, above a stepped podium, transitioning to different floor plates at levels 3, 5, 10, 21, and 24. The tower maintains a rounded rectangular form above the podium levels, before transitioning to an elliptical shape – similar to ‘Central City I’ at level 21. Above level 25, the vertical fins extend the curtain wall and frame an additional 2 storeys to conceal the rooftop mechanical equipment, and give the building a 27-storey appearance. The fins also provide space for signage, shown in renderings provided by ZGF, with the Central City logo, similar to the original tower. The bulk of the building’s massing is oriented towards King George Blvd and anchored to Old Yale Rd, creating a strong urban street wall and presence. The building tapers down towards the west, with its 4-storey podium extending to City Parkway, and the SkyTrain guideway.

The main entrance to the building will front onto a new public plaza along Old Yale Rd. This plaza will extend around the building on 3 sides, with retail, restaurant, and cafe space spilling out to activate frontages along City Parkway and King George Blvd. The south-west corner of the site at Old Yale Rd and City Parkway has been identified as a location for a future significant public art piece, subject to separate public art plan process.

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Ground floor Site Plan
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Landscaped outdoor terrace on Level 3
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Landscaped outdoor terrace on Level 5
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Landscaped outdoor terrace on Level 10
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Landscaped outdoor terrace on Level 21

Replacing the former Best Buy store at the corner of the existing mall parking lot, Central City II represents just phase 1 of a master redevelopment plan for the remainder of the Central City Shopping Centre site. More details of that plan will come through future development applications for subsequent phases. Earlier this year, the mall’s owner Blackwood Partners announced plans for a 1.5 storey addition to the existing parkade along University Drive which is expected to get underway in the coming months. Upon completion, this will allow for the closure of rooftop parking above parts of the existing mall along Old Yale Rd and eventual redevelopment of the site across from Holland Park.

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North Surrey Rec Centre to close for ‘Centre Block’ redevelopment

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A date has finally been set for the official closure of the North Surrey Recreation Centre to make way for the site’s long anticipated redevelopment. In a notice posted on the recreation centre website, the facility is planned to close in 2 phases beginning with a decommissioning of the ice rinks in early September, and finally a closure of the remaining portions of the building on December 22. Ice rink programming will move to the new North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex, set to open on September 3 near Scott Road Station. Following that in January, Aquatics programs will move to Guildford Recreation Centre, fitness and multi-purpose activities to North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex, and preschool programs to Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre.

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New North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex

While no timeline has been given for the site’s redevelopment following decommissioning, behind-the-scenes planning work has been underway for years, dating back to 2012. Since then, the City has been working with Simon Fraser University, TransLink, and various architects, planners, and consultants, on a master plan for what is known as the ‘Centre Block’ bounded by Central Avenue to the north, 102 Avenue to the south, University Drive to the west, and City Parkway to the east. Well-positioned adjacent to Surrey Central SkyTrain Station, the site forms a key link between Surrey City Hall / Civic Plaza to the north, and the Central City Complex and beyond to the south.

Back in 2013, Via Architecture prepared a ‘vision’ for what redevelopment could look like in the future. The concept envisioned a numerous mixed-use buildings for the site integrated with a transit-oriented plaza linking City Hall to Central City. The buildings would contain office, university, and retail space. The plan also envisioned:

  • A new bus layover facility to be located on 133A St behind the new SFU Engineering building.
  • A removal and re-configuring of the Surrey Central Bus Exchange – replacing the loop with a new street-oriented exchange along a realigned 102A Avenue and Central Avenue. The 2 streets would be integrated with a new Transit Plaza, designed to accommodate high pedestrian and bus passenger volumes.
Centre Block location between Civic Plaza and Central City
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Early vision for the Centre Block prepared by Via Architecture in 2013

Since the early Via Architecture vision, a more recent planning process has been underway following a Surrey City Development Corp (SCDC) RFP was filled seeking a new firm to undertake detailed master planning work for the Centre Block site. While no plans have been publicly released yet, what is expected is a major overhaul of Surrey Central Station linked with a new transit-oriented plaza connecting Civic Plaza to Central City, and integrated with over 2 million square feet of new office, university, and retail space. With such a large scale, the plan is expected to be completed in phases, with various puzzle pieces and phasing needing to take place before other phases can begin. The first of those pieces is the decommissioning and demolition of the North Surrey Recreation Centre. The second will be the construction of the new bus layover facility on 133 Street, allowing for removal of the current Bus Loop, and re-alignment of 102A Avenue through it.

With the North Surrey Rec Centre decommissioning now in sight, the pieces are finally coming together to make the Centre Block redevelopment a reality. While the project is likely to take at least a decade to build-out, we could see the start of application activity related to it in the coming year.

For more on the North Surrey Recreation Centre closing:

https://www.surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/CR_2019-R133.pdf

Concord Pacific an applicant in pair of submissions for towers on 105 Ave

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Two separate Development Applications have been submitted for a pair of projects between University Dr & City Parkway and 105 Ave & 105A Ave, just to the south of the BC Lions Training facility.

According to Surrey’s COSMOS, the application on the westerly block is to allow for 873 residential units (approximately 2 towers above podiums), while the application on the easterly block is to also allow for 2 towers above podiums with no unit count given. The applications are also proposing OCP and City Centre Plan amendments to re-designate the sites from 3.5 FAR to 5.5 FAR to allow for increased density. Interestingly, the applicant on the easterly site is listed as Concord Pacific – indicating a new venture for them in Surrey City Centre, to follow their existing ‘Park’ development near King George. The applicant on the westerly site is listed as IBI Group, although the applications could be related.

The subject sites have been vacant grassed lots for decades, and are bisected by the SkyTrain guideway between Surrey Central Station and Gateway Station. While the area may feel vacant now, just to the south across 105 Avenue, Bosa’s 28 & 37-storey University District towers are expected to begin construction within the next year. Also just to the north at City Parkway and 106 Avenue, Lark Group’s 20-story Legion Veteran’s Village project is now under construction.

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Site looking north-east from University Dr & 105 Ave
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Site looking south-east from University Dr & 105A Ave
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Site looking south from 105A Ave
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Site looking south-west from 105A Ave & City Parkway
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Site looking north from 105 Ave
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Site’s within City Centre Plan
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Birds-eye view of Sites

SkyTrain to Fleetwood: Cut-short and short-sighted

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With yesterday’s Mayors Council vote in favour of finalizing the business case for the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project, it is now certain that SkyTrain will be extended along Fraser Highway, but only as far as Fleetwood within the foreseeable future. As expected, the 1.65 billion in funding currently secured for rapid transit in Surrey will only allow for a 7km / 4 station extension of the Expo Line from King George Station to 166 Street, not to be in service until the end of 2025. With no funding secured, and no timeline in place for a phase 2 extension to Langley, it’s unlikely that SkyTrain will reach Langley before the 2030’s.

Given the decision to go ahead with SkyTrain on Fraser Highway, Surrey’s most urban corridors of 104 Ave and King George Blvd serving the 2 largest Town Centres of Guildford and Newton will likely now see no rapid transit for the next decade, due to the limited 3.55 billion funding envelope (with 1.9 billion yet to be secured) for rapid transit South of the Fraser. This funding envelope would have provided Surrey 27km of LRT across the city, including both the Guildford-City Centre-Newton ‘L’ line, and Fraser Hwy line to Langley. With SkyTrain, Surrey will just receive a single 16.5km line down Fraser Highway instead, along a corridor much more suburban in form, and with much less opportunity for land assembly to higher densities to support a SkyTrain line.

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While rapid transit to Langley is definitely a good thing, the reality of the line not likely reaching Langley until the 2030’s, while rapid transit elsewhere in Surrey is stalled, is very unfortunate when Surrey could have had a full 19-Stop (27km) LRT system across the City inclusive of Langley within the same timeframe as an 8-Stop (16.5km) SkyTrain line. LRT additionally would have transformed, urbanized, and distinguished Surrey in ways that SkyTrain will not. LRT and trams are common fixtures and symbols of inner urban cores in major cities around the world, of which Metro Vancouver currently lacks. Cities such as Berlin, with robust multi-tiered rail transit networks, are embarking on major expansions of their LRT networks, on top of their existing metro rail networks. LRT would have urbanized and distinguished Surrey as a city on its own, as an inner core of the region. With SkyTrain, Surrey remains similar to Burnaby, a by-pass suburb along the line to Vancouver. This is not to mention, the negative effects of SkyTrain on the streetscape – obtrusive overhead guideways that cast shadows, are noisy, unsightly, and ultimately very suburban in nature, compared to urbanized street-integrated LRT which can transform a city and its streetscapes.

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Eventual 8-Stop (16.5km) SkyTrain to Langley by 2030’s
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Cancelled 19-Stop (27km) LRT network that would have been completed within same time frame as SkyTrain

It’s hard to imagine rationalizing a 4-station SkyTrain extension to suburban Fleetwood over an 11-station LRT line servicing Surrey’s most urban corridors and largest Town Centres, but here we are. Ultimately once the line does reach Langley in the 2030’s it will help to move people through the region, benefit Surrey’s City Centre (although with less new stations), and those living near the line, but at the expense of what could have been a much more extensive rapid transit system, more urbanizing, distinguishing, and transformative for Surrey.

West Village Park & District Energy Centre Open

After nearly 2 years of construction, the new West Village Park and District Energy Centre officially opened last week in the rapidly growing West Village neighbourhood of City Centre. Located at the corner of Central Avenue & 133 Street, the new 0.7 Acre park was designed by Vancouver’s Space2Place Landscape Architects in conjunction with a community consultation process, and is one of 10 new parks planned for City Centre. The park includes a plaza, stage, green space, play area, benches, picnic tables, and a distinctive hexagon pattern of concrete, cork, and landscape beds. In addition to the park, a new segment of Central Avenue was opened, with a new sidewalk and dedicated bike lane (now standard on all newly constructed Collector and Arterial Roads in Surrey).

The main feature of the park is the new West Village Energy Centre, designed by Vancouver’s Francl Architecture, and complete with an art installation titled ‘Blankets’ on the building’s stacks. Operated by Surrey City Energy, the centre is the first of  3 District Energy Centres planned for City Centre, with the remaining two to be located near King George Station and Gateway Station in the future. These District Energy centres are intended to provide reliable, cost-competitive, and sustainable heat and hot water services to the City Centre’s growing high-density population. They work by distributing thermal energy, typically in the form of hot water through a network of closed-loop underground pipes to individual customer buildings. As new developments come on-line, they can connect to the District Energy System for their heating and hot water services.

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Plaza looking west from 133 St
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Looking East towards West Village Park greenspace
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West Village Energy south facade featuring art installation ‘Blankets’ on building stacks
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Looking East on Central Avenue
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Looking East into interior of West Village Energy Centre
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Newly constructed Central Avenue half-road
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Looking west into interior of West Village Energy Centre
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West Village Energy Centre entrance
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Greenspace and picnic area
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Greenspace, plaza, and seating area
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Greenspace and seating area

New application submitted for mixed-use project at Gateway

A new application (19-0095) has been submitted for a mixed-use project near Gateway Station at 10925 University Drive. According to application details, the applicant is seeking to Rezone and Subdivide the site into 2 new parcels to allow for approximately 500 residential units and 1580m2 (17,000 sq.ft.) of office space within 1 mid-rise and 1 high-rise building.

The subject site is currently made up of 2 existing lots adjacent to the 22-storey ‘Observatory’ condo tower built in 1995. The site was originally intended for a twin of that tower back in the 90’s – similar to the ‘Cornerstone 1 & 2’ towers just to the south – but the project never completed. The site has since sat vacant for over 2 decades now. This new proposal will also include in the site area an existing single family lot fronting 133A Street.

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Subject site – vacant land next to existing condo towers built in 1990’s
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Looking south towards subject site
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Looking north-west towards subject site
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Subject site within City Centre Plan

As per the City Centre Plan, the site is currently designated ‘High-Rise 5.5 FAR (with 20% allowable increase to 6.6 FAR)’. It is located directly across University Drive from the currently in-process application (18-0388) which is proposing a pair of 28 & 30 Storey residential towers.

For more on the application:

https://apps.surrey.ca/Online-Development-Inquiry/?year=19&seq=0095