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.

LRT to SkyTrain not a simple ‘switch’

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With Doug McCallum’s win in last weekend’s election, Surrey appears to be in for change. Campaigning heavily on LRT and Safety, the topic of discussion now is whether he will deliver on his promise to ‘scrap’ LRT and ‘replace’ it with SkyTrain. It appears the majority of Surrey residents are in favour of this – fuelled by non-stop negative publicity of LRT in the media – but what does an LRT to SkyTrain ‘switch’ actually mean for Surrey? A few key implications to consider:

SkyTrain vs LRT – 2 different routes

A misconception that many who ‘voted’ for SkyTrain over LRT may have may have is that the proposed LRT will simply be ‘switched’ to SkyTrain. This is not the case – each would run along a different route. Let’s look at the difference:

LRT – City Centre-Newton-Guildford: The proposed ‘Phase 1’ LRT route – with secured funding and significant planning and design work already completed – is planned run from Guildford along 104 Avenue to City Centre, then south on King George Blvd to Newton. This is known as the ‘L’ Line or Surrey-Netwon-Guildford Line – serving Surrey’s most populated, and urban town centres.

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Phase 1 LRT route along 104 Ave & King George Blvd + future Phase 2 route to Langley

SkyTrain – Fraser Highway: Doug McCallum’s SkyTrain – which would need to be planned and designed from scratch – would provide no rapid transit to Guildford or Newton (Surrey’s most populated / urban town centres) – but instead be an extension of the existing Expo Line down Fraser Highway to Fleetwood, Cloverdale (Surrey’s least populated / urban town centres) and Langley.

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SkyTrain extension to Langley along Fraser Hwy through low density suburbs / ALR to Langley

The Land-Use Difference

LRT: The proposed ‘Phase 1’ LRT route would serve Surrey’s most established urban corridors with the highest densities – 104 Avenue and King George Blvd. Guildford Town Centre contains the regions 2nd largest shopping centre, numerous high-rises and offices. Further, the currently underway Guildford-104 Avenue Corridor Plan which is set to become adopted in 2019, has designated land all along 104 Avenue between City Centre and Guildford for increased urban densities appropriate for a rapid transit corridor. A similar plan is set to follow for the King George corridor between City Centre and Newton. Simply put – 104 Avenue and King George Blvd are the most appropriate corridors for initial rapid transit expansion in Surrey due to their already underway land-use planning for higher density, and their existing densities, land-use, and most urban character of Surrey’s corridors.

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Phase 1 LRT route along existing urban corridors with planned density
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Guildford – 104 Avenue Corridor Plan – urban density planned along LRT route

SkyTrain: Doug McCallum’s SkyTrain would run down Fraser Highway which currently has no land-use plans for significant urban density underway, and is currently of the lowest density and suburban of corridors in Surrey. The SkyTrain route would run through:

  • Green Timbers Forest for the first 2km of its route
  • the low density suburban neighbourhood of Fleetwood for the next 5km
  • ALR farm land for the next 2km
  • and finally low density suburban Clayton/Cloverdale and Langley for the remaining 6km of the route

This route would have the lowest densities of any SkyTrain corridor in the region – including significant stretches through forest and ALR farm land – unseen anywhere else on the SkyTrain system. SkyTrain along Fraser Highway would require significant land-use changes along Fraser Highway to justify it – including significant increases in density, high-rise towers, and transit-oriented development – similar to elsewhere along the SkyTrain network. This would require changes to the Official Community Plan (OCP) – ironically Doug McCallum campaigned against OCP amendments.

Simply put – this type of development is incompatible with the scale and character of the Fraser Highway corridor that is predominantly newer single family homes and townhomes. Many living along that corridor would surely object to such drastic land-use changes appropriate for a SkyTrain line.

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SkyTrain extension through low density suburbs / ALR with no planned urban density

From a land-use planning perspective – it makes the most sense to serve the highest density corridors and urban centres (104 Avenue – King George Blvd) with rapid transit prior to lower density corridors such as Fraser Highway. Instead, a SkyTrain extension over LRT would do the exact opposite of what makes sense. While it is important to provide a rapid transit link to Langley, and connect the communities of Fleetwood, Clayton/Cloverdale with regional rapid transit – from a land-use and planning perspective these areas are lower priority than Guildford and Newton – and Fraser Highway does not have density appropriate for SkyTrain. In an ideal world, Langley would be serviced by long-distance commuter rail such as all-day WestCoast Express – but realistically – LRT may be the best option for serving Langley down Fraser Highway as a Phase 2 project – given the density, scale, and character of that corridor.

Uncertain Timeline

LRT: Funding for the proposed ‘Phase 1’ LRT route is “in the mail” from the Federal and Provincial Governments. Significant planning, consultation work, and design has been underway for years, and the project is now at the procurement stage with construction set to begin in 2019 and completion by 2024.

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LRT scheduled to begin construction in 2019 – years of planning, consultation, design already complete.

SkyTrain: Doug McCallum claims that secured funding for LRT can simply be ‘switched’ to fund a SkyTrain extension to Langley instead of the Guildford Newton line. While this may be possible, as the funding doesn’t specify a type of rail – the fact is – no planning, consultation, or design work has been completed on a SkyTrain extension down Fraser Highway. The amount of time and additional resources that would need to go into a SkyTrain extension prior to its construction would not only delay the project for an unforeseen number of extra years – pushing completion of this line to the late 2020’s.

By that time, Phase 2 of the LRT is likely to be under construction – resulting in Surrey having 2 new rapid transit lines by the late 2020’s instead of just a single SkyTrain extension down low-density Fraser Hwy within the same time frame.

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While these reasons aren’t exhaustive in the debate – they are very key ones that have been surprisingly absent talking points. Surrey residents may not have been the best informed on the SkyTrain vs LRT debate thanks to the media – to make an educated decision that weighs more factors than just ‘speed of service’ and ‘glamour of SkyTrain vs LRT’ – but in the end it may not matter. The LRT project is likely too far along at this stage and with too much else to consider to simply be ‘switched’. It is being led by non-partisan land-use and transit planning experts in the Planning & Transportation Departments (not the former Mayor or Councillors as some may believe) – experts who should be leading such projects – rather than transit planning on a whim by politicians and voters.

New details released for ‘Central City 2’ office tower

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Blackwood Partners, have released new details on their upcoming ‘Central City 2’ office tower project at the corner of Old Yale Rd and King George Blvd. A new leasing brochure, available on the Central City website, provides some updated renderings, floorplans, and marketing information aimed at future tenants looking for office and retail space.

Since first being announced back in November 2017, the new renderings depict a re-designed, more refined tower, from that initially conceptualized. The new design features a stronger podium fronting Old Yale Rd and a more cohesive tower floor-plate and massing compared to the previous design. The rectangular floor plate blends into an elliptical floor plate on higher floors – referencing the existing 25-storey Central City office tower at 102 Ave & University Dr built in 2003.

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Conceptual rendering of tower podium and restaurant at corner of City Parkway and Old Yale Rd

Tower Details

Designed by Vancouver’s ZGF Architects, the project will be a 25-storey, Class AAA, mixed- use tower, containing 512,305 SF of commercial space and +/-20,000 SF of retail space contained within the podium. The ground level is conceptualized to contain 6 retail units, a restaurant, cafe, and office tower lobby, anchored to a prominent public plaza at the corner of Old Yale Rd and King George Blvd across from Holland Park and King George Station. The building will be built to LEED GoldDesign (with a pathway to Platinum), and also contain:

  • Premium end-of-trip facilities, with ample bicycle storage, executive bicycle lockers, shower, and change facilities
  • Approximately 900 underground parking stalls
  • High-speed state-of-the-art elevators
  • Electric vehicle charging stations and car share parking spaces.
  • Numerous other advanced technology features
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Conceptualized ground-level floor plan
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Artistic rendering of views from higher-level office floors
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Artistic rendering of roof-top views overlooking Holland Park
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Artistic rendering of fitness facilities for office employees

Long-term plan

Also released as part of the leasing brochure is a glimpse at the long-range plan for redevelopment of the entire Central City site following Central City 2. This plan will see much of the existing indoor shopping centre retained but renovated, with the introduction of a new prominent plaza at its south-end along Old Yale Rd, linking the shopping centre directly onto Holland Park. The existing parking lot along King George Blvd is envisioned to be broken up into a series of new city blocks, containing mixed-use high-rise development sites. A re-aligned City Parkway will connect directly through the site from the north, past a new entry plaza where Wal-Mart currently exists.

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While no target dates have been given for completion of Central City 2 – it is expected that a development application will be submitted for the project in the near future. The long-range plan for Central City is expected to play out over the next decade or longer. For more on Central City 2:

http://www.centralcity.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Tower-2-at-Central-City-Brochure-April-2018.pdf

City seeks public input on Guildford Town Centre – 104 Avenue Plan

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The City of Surrey held a public open house last week on the in-progress, Guildford Town Centre – 104 Avenue Plan. The plan, which has been under study since last year, is seeking to define a vision and prepare a long-range land-use plan to guide future growth along the 104 Avenue Corridor and Guildford Town Centre areas.

Presented to the public at the open house last week were 2 land-use concept options, along with a proposed street network, bicycle and pedestrian network, and parks and open space concept.

Land-Use Concept Option 1: Focused Growth

Land-Use Concept Option 1 seeks to focus growth and density in key areas of the plan, such as along 104 Avenue and areas surrounding Guildford Town Centre. The plan envisions:

  • A continuous stretch of 6-storey mixed-use/apartments (Dark orange) along 104 Avenue
  • Mid to high-rise mixed-use (pink) at 104 Ave & 144 St.
  • Mid to high-rise along 104 Ave east of 148 St and to the north and east of Guildford Town Centre – with the tallest tower heights (purple) concentrated on the former Sears site.
  • 4-storey apartment areas (light orange) dispersed throughout the plan area
  • Townhouses (yellow) in a few areas
  • Single Family housing preserved in a number of areas, mostly west of 148 St.
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Land-Use Concept Option 1: Focused Growth

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Land-Use Concept Option 2: Dispersed Growth

Land-Use Concept Option 2, while very similar, seeks to disperse growth and densities over the plan area, with lower intensities of density, but increased density covering more area. This includes:

  • A wider continuous stretch of 6-storey mixed-use/apartments (Dark orange) along 104 Avenue
  • Mid to high-rise mixed-use (Pink) to the north and east of Guildford Town Centre.
  • 4-storey apartment areas (light orange) more widely dispersed throughout the plan area
  • Townhouses (yellow) more widely dispersed across the plan area
  • Slightly less preserved Single Family housing.
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Land-Use Concept Option 2: Dispersed Growth

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Proposed Street Network

The proposed street network adds a number of new local and collector streets to improve connectivity through a finer-grained network. One of these new collectors is the currently underway 105A Avenue connector project which will provide an alternate east-west route to 104 Avenue linking City Centre to Guildford. A long-range new street network is shown on the site of Guildford Town Shopping Centre – envisioning the future redevelopment of this mall into an urban district far into the future – similar to the vision for the Metropolis at Metrotown Shopping Centre site in Burnaby under the Metrotown Plan.

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Proposed Bike and Pedestrian Network

The proposed bike and pedestrian network creates a number of new multi-use paths and road-separated bike lanes improving connectivity throughout the plan area. Pedestrian and cycling crossings at busy intersections would be enhanced under the plan to improve safety and streetscape integration. Existing bike lanes would be upgraded to be physically separated from the road.

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Proposed Parks and Open Space

The proposed parks and open space plan illustrates how parks, habitat areas, and the city’s Green Infrastructure Network will be integrated into the plan area. A key feature of the plan is a ‘Green Loop’ pedestrian and cycling network stretching east-west with north-south connections – improving non-automobile connectivity in the area and connecting the many parks. In addition to existing parks shown in light green, many new parks are shown in dark green, including expansions to Hawthorne Park.

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Future Light Rail Transit (LRT)

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An integral part of the 104 Avenue – Guildford Town Centre Plan area will be the new LRT line linking City Centre to Guildford along 104 Avenue, and further south to Newton. This urban-style, low floor, LRT system will not just be a rapid transit line passing through the area, but a fully streetscape-integrated, centrepiece of the 104 Avenue corridor. Combined with a continuous 6-storey mixed-use density along 104 Avenue, the corridor will be transformed into a transit/pedestrian-oriented and prioritized streetscape, similar to precedents in Europe and elsewhere around the world. The LRT will support the densities along the the 104 Avenue Corridor, and integrate seamlessly into the community – unlike SkyTrain which bisects and has a negative visual and physical impact on the streetscape.

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To find out more about the Guildford Town Centre – 104 Avenue Plan, and participate in the public survey – visit:
http://www.surrey.ca/city-services/24723.aspx