On Friday, an article was published in the Globe & Mail by urban politics and issues writer Frances Bula titled ‘Surrey’s vision for the future is slow in coming‘, shining a spotlight on the city centre’s transformation, that has indeed been slow in coming. Up until now.
A Brief History of Surrey City Centre – 1991-2005
The vision for Surrey’s City Centre is nothing new. The first City Centre Plan was completed back in 1991, and was only just recently updated as of January this year after a lengthy 10-year review beginning in 2006. Looking back at how the city centre has developed since that initial plan’s adoption, it’s clear to see that development through much of the 1990s and 2000’s had been sparse and slow to materialize, sparking the need for a renewed vision to move the city centre forward. Aside from an initial spike in development between 1994-1995, when SkyTrain was first extended to the area, and a total of 7 high-rise towers were completed within a short time span, the decade that followed was markedly different.
Intrawest/Intracorp initially had a master plan for a community around Gateway Station in the early 1990’s which was to include a total of 5 high-rise office towers, and 11 high-rise residential towers. 3 of these residential towers and 1 of the office towers were completed in the 1994-1995 boom, including the 18-Storey signature Station Tower. Following this initial spike, the remaining lands sat vacant for over a decade, until 3 of the initially slated high-rise residential sites were eventually developed as 4-storey condo buildings between 2008-2011. Intrawest/Intracorp has since sold of the remainder of their lands to other developers, with the initial master plan never coming to fruition.
Another 90’s master planned community which was to see a number of towers developed around King George Station saw only 1 tower built in 1994, with the remaining lands sitting vacant for over a decade as well, until eventually being bought and developed in the mid-2000’s – first as Infinity, then later evolving into Concord Pacific’s Park Place.
- 1994: Cornerstone 1 & 2 (Gateway) | 18 & 21-storey condo towers
- 1994: Station Tower | 18-storey office tower
- 1994: Odyssey Tower | 21-storey condo tower
- 1994: Balmoral Tower | 15-storey condo tower
- 1995: Grandview Court | 16-storey condo tower
- 1995: Observatory (Gateway) | 22-storey condo tower
In the decade between 1996 and 2005, development in Surrey City Centre was indeed so slow that only 1 tower was built – the city’s iconic, Bing Thom designed, Central City office tower, completed in 2003 as part of a massive redevelopment of former Surrey Place Mall by ICBC into a re-branded shopping centre, TechBC (later SFU) university, and office tower.
- 2003: Central City – 26-storey office tower, university, retail
Surrey City Centre’s Turning Point – 2006-2015
Following a decade of very little development activity which saw only 1 tower built between 1996 and 2005, a total of 4 new high-rise towers were built in Surrey City Centre between 2006 – 2010.
- 2006: Infinity (now Concord Park Place) | 36-storey condo tower
- 2009: D’Corize | 22-storey condo tower
- 2009: City Point | 21 and 25-storey condo towers with retail
In the 5 years that followed, development activity grew more. A total of 6 high/mid-rise towers were completed between 2011-2015, along side the new Surrey City Hall, the Bing Thom designed City Centre Library, and Surrey’s new civic plaza which will see future expansion.
- 2011: Park Place | 2 x 36-storey condo towers
- 2011: Surrey City Centre Library
- 2013: Ultra | 35-storey condo tower
- 2013: Surrey City Hall
- 2014: City Centre 1 | 12-storey office tower
- 2014: Coast Capital headquarters | 9-storey office tower
- 2015: Wave | 28-storey condo tower
In total, the 10-year period between 2006 to 2015 saw more development activity in Surrey City Centre than the previous 15 years combined, along with a new civic heart. Following a period of very little growth between 1996 and 2005, a sure sign that the tide may be changing.
2016 and onward
Since the relocation of Surrey City Hall to the city centre in 2013, and the opening of Civic Plaza, investment in the area has markedly picked up, with a long list of active development applications now in process at the city. Following a relatively strong decade of growth between 2006 and 2015, in 2016, Surrey City Centre was showing signs of coming to fruition, and ripe for the adoption of the new Surrey City Centre Plan. In the past year, 2 towers have been completed, with 4 more scheduled for completion in 2017, and an additional 4 scheduled for completion in 2018. In 2017, this will include the iconic new 52-storey 3 Civic Plaza, Mixed-Use (Hotel, Office, Condo, University, Retail), which is already re-defining and transforming the city centre’s core and image. In total the 2016-2020 period will see a total of 12 significant buildings completed, up from 8 in the previous 5 years.
- 2016: University District (Phase 1) | Condo, Office, Retail | 32 Floors
- 2016: Park Avenue East | Condo | 36 Floors
- 2017: Park Avenue West | Condo | 39 Floors
- 2017: 3 Civic Plaza | Condo, Hotel, University, Retail |52 Floors
- 2017: Bosa’s Gateway Place |Office, Retail | 5 Floors
- 2018: Prime on the Plaza | Condo, Retail | 37 Floors
- 2018: Evolve | Condo, Office, Retail | 36 Floors
- 2018: City Centre 2 | Office, Retail | 12 Floors
- 2018: SFU Sustainable Energy / Engineering Building | 5 Floors
- 2019 (estimated): Innovation village | Care Facility, Office, Seniors | 12 Floors
- 2020 (estimated): Concord Park Boulevard | Condo | 42 Floors
- 2020 (estimated): West Village Phase 5 | Rental, Office, Retail | 44 Floors
Looking ahead to 2021 and beyond, it is clear to see that the pace of growth in Surrey City Centre is only set to intensify if the number of approved and active development applications are any indication. In total, aside from buildings now under construction and scheduled for completion by 2020, beyond this there are 47 additional towers under active application or known to be in the planning stages in Surrey City Centre. While the timeline for completion of many of these towers is uncertain based on market conditions, it is likely that many will see completion within the next decade, given Surrey’s strong population growth, doubling Vancouver in growth between 2011-2016. While much of this growth has been concentrated in newer developing areas of the city such as South Surrey, South Newton, and Cloverdale, it is reasonable to assume that Surrey City Centre will start to take on a greater share of future growth as it reaches a critical threshold of density (which it appears to be now), and its subsequent image and desiraiblity improves. Combine this with the affordability crisis north of the fraser, and the comparable price of condos, Surrey City Centre begins to become more and more attractive.
With this direction that Surrey City Centre is heading, already a number of major developers in the region have significant land holdings in the area, including projects completed, under application, or in the planning stages.
Completion beyond 2021 (Proposed and under application):
- GEC Education Mega Centre | Student Housing, Hotel, Institutional | 50 Floors
- University District (Phase 2) | Condo, Office, Retail | 26 + 32 Floors
- Hub at King George | Condo, Office, Retail | 12 + 20 + 32 + 38 + 39 + 42 Floors
- Wynd |Condo | 28 Floors
- City Centre 3 | Office | 8 Floors
- 13778 100 Ave | Condo | 20 + 46 Floors
- Tien Sher 108 Ave & King George |Condo, Retail | 6 + 35 + 37 + 46 Floors
- Old Yale & 133 St | Condo | 22 Floors
- Seagate Gateway | Condo | 30 + 37 Floors
- Holland Point | Condo, Office Retail | 30 + 36 + 41 Floors
- 98th & King George | Condo, Hotel | 30 Floors
- 9677 King George | Care Facility, Office | 18 Floors
- Anthem Properties | Condo, Office, Retail | 7 Towers
- 133 St & 103A Ave | Condo | 18 Floors
- West Village Phase 6-8 | Condo, Office, Retail | 37 + 38 + 42 Floors
- City Centre YMCA
- Bosa University District (Future Phases) | Condo, Retail | 5 Towers
- Bosa Gateway Place (Phase 2-3) | Condo | 2 Towers
- Veterans Village / Whalley Legion | Care Facility, Office | 20 Floors
- SFU Expansion (Phases 2-3)
This list will of course continue to grow as new applications are submitted.
For an active list and map of Surrey City Centre projects, see the UrbanSurrey Active Projects Page
Updated May 10, 2017