Numerous community and business leaders joined Mayor Linda Hepner today to launch an 8-week LRT showcase, offering residents a first glimpse at Surrey’s future LRT. As part of the showcase, a prototype LRT train car has been brought in from Europe and put on display in the Central City parking lot next to King George Blvd. It will remain there for the next couple of weeks before being relocated to Newton Town Centre, Guildford Town Centre, and finally the Surrey Canada Day celebration in Cloverdale.
The goal of the showcase is to give residents a first-hand look at what the urban-style LRT train will look like. Unlike high-floor commuter-type LRT trains like those in Calgary and Edmonton, Surrey’s LRT will be low-floored, similar to those found in many cities throughout Europe, and even Toronto. Despite being more integrated with the urban environment, the trains will nonetheless run on a dedicated right-of-way, apart from traffic, offering significant improvement over a bus – not only in speed, but also through more consistent/reliable schedules, frequency, capacity, boarding doors, and comfort. It is important to point out that the particular train car brought in for display is just a prototype, and the actual trains chosen for the Surrey line, will likely look a bit different.
LRT was chosen as the mode of choice for rapid transit in Surrey following years of study that began as far back as 2010. Numerous options, and combinations were looked at including LRT, SkyTrain, and Bus Rapid Transit. The results found LRT to be the most cost effective system for Surrey – with 27km of LRT track (2 lines) able to be built for the same $2.2 billion price tag as 16km of SkyTrain (1 line). Surrey gets a more extensive rail transit network, better integrated with the community, creating more pedestrian-orientated streetscapes, with LRT. Further, operating costs for LRT were found to be $6 million cheaper annually, with negligible differences in travel times.
Since securing funding back in March, the first phase of Surrey’s LRT network – the Guildford-City Centre-Newton line – is now on track to begin construction by late 2019 and be in service by 2024.
A controversial proposal for a ‘gateway’ development on King George Blvd at Bolivar Rd at the north end of City Centre received conditional Council support on Monday in concept for its proposed density, but at the same time, was referred back to City staff for further refinement work with the applicant. The developer, an off-shore investor group known as ‘New Great Land Developing’, is proposing to amend both the Official Community Plan (OCP) and City Centre Plan to allow for:
One 24-storey residential tower above a 7-storey podium
One 24-storey residential tower above a 6-storey podium
One 22-storey residential tower above a 6-storey podium
Two stand-alone 6-storey residential buildings
The site’s current OCP designation of ‘Multiple Residential’ is proposed to be amended to ‘Central Business District’, while site’s City Centre Plan designation of ‘Residential Low to Mid Rise (2.5 FAR)’ is proposed to be amended to ‘Residential Mid to High Rise (3.5 – 5.5 FAR)’
In the Planning Report to Council, City staff gave 3 recommendation options to Council on how to proceed. They included:
Refer the application back to staff to work with the applicant to develop the subject site in accordance with the “Low to Mid Rise Residential up to 2.5 FAR” designation in the City Centre Plan.
Refer the application back to staff to work with the applicant to develop the subject site with a form of development that achieves a 6-storey form along King George Boulevard, a mid-rise (maximum 10-storey) form in the middle of the site, and a 4-5 storey form adjacent to the existing single family residential lots to the northeast of the subject site.
Refer the application back to staff to continue to process the application at the density proposed (4.5 FAR), with the consideration of the provision of a significant amenity contribution above and beyond the required City Centre Amenity Charges and City Centre specific Development Cost Charges, which can be allocated towards amenity needs in the City Centre Plan area.
Council gives conditional support for increased density
Despite Staff’s recommendation that Council choose option A, which would comply with the site’s OCP and City Centre Plan designations of ‘Low to Mid Rise Residential up to 2.5 FAR’ – Council voted in-favour of Option C, supporting the applicant’s proposal for amendments to the OCP and City Centre Plan for an increase in density to 4.5 FAR, on the condition of provision of a significant amenity contribution.
A presentation by the applicant’s representative and project architect – Musson Cattell Mackey (MCM) Partnership – argued for the higher density based on the site’s location at the northern ‘Gateway’ to City Centre, proximity to rapid transit, and the fact that 5.5 FAR is already permitted directly to south of the site across King George Blvd. Council agreed that such density would also be appropriate for this site given this context, and would help form a gateway straddling both sides of King George Blvd.
Despite the unique design of the towers as proposed, another condition of Council was that the project undergo further design revision to achieve an even more iconic look, suitable for a ‘gateway’ location, if the increase in density is to be allowed. When the project returns to Council at a later date, its possible that we could see a new design all together, or a just a refinement of what is currently proposed.
The long-awaited first phase of Surrey’s LRT is a go-ahead, following today’s announcement of an agreement between the provincial government and the Mayor’s Council to fund the project. Billed as the largest transit and transportation investment in the history of the Metro Vancouver region, the plan will see:
Construction of the Surrey Guildford-Newton Light Rail (LRT)
Construction of Millennium Line Broadway Extension
Significant upgrade of existing Expo-Millennium Lines to expand capacity to meet and improve the customer experience
An 8% increase in bus service to address overcrowding, reduce wait times and bring bus services to communities with limited service
Improvements to sidewalks, bikeways, multi-use pathways and roadways
According to the media release, delivery of these projects will be funded by:
$1.6 billion in fare revenues expected from higher ridership resulting from service expansion in Phase Two, TransLink resources and efficiencies.
A 2% increase to all transit fares over two years beginning in 2020.
Parking lot sales tax increase of 15 cents per hour for an average $5 per hour parking.
$5.50 increase in property taxes per average household each year or about 46 cents a month, beginning in 2019.
About $300 to $600/unit increase to the Development Cost Charge on new residential developments depending on type of dwelling.
Revenue from a variety of transit-related commercial opportunities.
Construction by 2019 – Phase 1 Completion by 2024
While federal matching of the provincial funding still needs to be finalized, it is expected that the first phase of the Surrey LRT line between Guildford – City Centre – Newton will likely be under construction by late 2019, with completion by 2024. Not only will the project bring a new a rapid transit line to the South Fraser, it will also be a game-changer in how it will integrate with, and transform the neighbourhoods it passes through. In conjunction with the City Centre Plan and the Guildford-104 Avenue Plan, LRT corridors will be gradually transformed with 4-6-storey density along each route, with higher density mixed-use nodes at key intersections and throughout City Centre, Guildford Town Centre, and Newton Town Centre.
A new tier of rapid transit for Metro Vancouver
LRT will introduce a new layer of rapid transit service to Metro Vancouver that is complimentary to SkyTrain. It will serve as a more localized, finer-grained service, compared to SkyTrain which can be seen as more of a regional commuter train service. Tiered transit systems are common around the world, with various forms of rail combining to form an intricate and dynamic transit network. A good example of this is Berlin, Germany where there are 4 tiers of rail within its robust transit network. These include:
Regional Train (Comparable to WestCoast Express)
S-Bahn (Suburban service)
U-Bahn (Urban service – Comparable to SkyTrain)
MetroTram LRT (Fine-grained urban service)
All of these lines converge at hub stations, with each tier serving a specific purpose.
Example – Tiers of Rail Transit in Berlin
Surrey LRT will bring the first fine-grained rail service to Metro Vancouver – appropriate for routes that are more localized, and less regional – such as the Guildford-City Centre-Newton line – but connecting to SkyTrain for regional commuter travel at hub stations. It is likely that we could see LRT build elsewhere in the region following Surrey, given its cost-effectiveness and appropriate scale for many other parts of the region.
A 360 VR rendering has been released by Vancouver-based VR/AR company Stambol Studios, which specializes in creating “hyperrealistic immersive experiences”. According to their website, Stambol also has an office in the very Health & Technology District featured in the 360 VR rendering.
In the 360 VR rendering which can be found here, a glimpse is given into the future of the emerging Health & Technology District at the south end of City Centre near 96th Avenue and 137 St. The hyperrealistic rendering shows the existing City Centre 1, and currently under construction City Centre 2 buildings, along with the recently approved City Centre 3 – all by the developer Lark Group.
The rendering also provides a first glimpse at a future phase of the district, presumably City Centre 4 & 5, shown north of City Centre 2 along 137 St. These towers appear to be taller than their predecessors, and also have a shared podium, suggesting they would be built as a single phase. Lark Group was quoted in a Business in Vancouver article back in March, to have plans for up to 8 towers in the district, which spans from Surrey Memorial Hospital north to Fraser Hwy.
Each year, as part of the Surrey’s Capital Construction Program, approximately 300 capital infrastructure projects related to transportation, drainage, sewer, and water improvements are constructed in the city. Of these projects this year, the following are set to be completed in City Centre:
Arterial Paving Upgrade
King George Blvd (University Dr to 108 Ave)
Bike Lanes Upgrade
102 Ave (University Dr to 140 St)
New Collector Road
103A Ave (132 St to 133 St) + 103 Ave (University Dr to City Parkway)
New Signalized Intersection
108 Ave & City Parkway
District Energy Network Expansion
Surrey City Energy is an award-winning City-owned district energy utility that supplies high-density residential, commercial and institutional buildings in City Centre with heat and hot water.
The district energy system produces hot water at centralized facilities and then distributes this hot water by way of a dedicated pipe system to heat buildings throughout various City Centre districts. The system uses low GHG-emission energy sources such as:
Organic waste (kitchen scraps, etc.) from residential homes throughout Surrey;
Geoexchange from the ground;
Solar from the sun;
Biomass from clean waste wood;
Waste heat from buildings, industry and waste water.
As part of Surrey’s LED Roadway Lighting Upgrade program which began in 2016, the City Centre will continue to have its street lighting upgraded to a modern LED system in 2017. This new lighting system replaces the current orange coloured ‘high pressure sodium (HPS)’ street lights currently in use both in Surrey, and much of the world, with new white coloured LED lighting that provides superior lighting quality, energy, and cost savings. Surrey will be one of the first cities in Canada to convert its street lighting to LED. The program is to be implemented citywide over the next 5 years.
In addition to the 28,000 streetlight poles in Surrey, there are 9,000 roadway lights installed on BC Hydro power poles. These are owned and maintained by BC Hydro with the City paying an annual lease rate. BC Hydro is currently reviewing conversion of their roadway lights to LED and is expected initiate conversion in 2017.
Conceptual Rendering of Surrey City Centre in 2040
A landmark decision was made tonight as Surrey City Council gave final adoption to the new City Centre Plan. The plan, which has been under development for the past 10 years, is a major revision and update to the first City Centre Plan adopted back in 1991. Its aim is to redefine the vision and help better establish and reinforce a desirable development pattern for Surrey’s downtown. The 500-page document is full of visionary guidelines, objectives, and plans for the area, which will guide development over the next 30 years.
Below are some of the highlights:
“The goal of the Surrey City Centre Plan is to help develop and support a regional downtown that is the main business, cultural and activity centre for the City of Surrey. It is anticipated that the existing City Centre population of 32,000 will more than double by 2033 to approximately 68,000 people and the number of jobs will increase from 24,000 to 32,000 over the next 10 years.” The population of Surrey as a whole is expected to grow from 550,000 today to over 800,000 within 30 years to become the largest city in BC.
“Surrey’s City Centre is undergoing a major transformation from a suburban centre into a walkable high density, transit oriented downtown for South of the Fraser. Surrey City Centre is envisioned to be the Fraser Valley’s metropolitan centre, connected to major regional destinations by rapid transit and an efficient road network designed to support walking, cycling, and transit. It will be a centre for major employment; services; higher density housing; and commercial, cultural, entertainment, and institutional activity. Surrey City Centre is also designated as Metro Vancouver’s second metropolitan centre in the 2040 Regional Growth Strategy.”
“Distinct and vibrant neighbourhoods, including a dynamic and innovative business sector, university, hospital, and civic and historic districts, will form the framework of the City Centre. Each of these areas will have its own unique character that together will create a diverse, authentic, and interesting downtown.”
Artistic rendering of Surrey Central Station and a pedestrianized City Parkway with LRT
City Centre Neighbourhoods
The City Centre Plan area has been organized into a number of distinct residential neighbourhoods and mixed use districts each with its own emerging identity, function, and scale. These sub areas help to create a focused, vibrant, and more urban downtown by defining and understanding the plan area through a smaller scale and framework.
1960’s Rickshaw Restaurant Sign at 10522 King George Blvd – Photo by Rebecca Bollwitt/Miss604
A Mid-Century Historic District:
Building on the historic roots of the area, the vision for the Historic District is to support a pedestrian-oriented eclectic shopping experience with a continuous commercial and retail edge with pedestrian amenities. The historic, mid-century modern feel will be preserved and reinforced through small storefronts, building façade treatment and materials, public art, and signage.
New developments will incorporate the 1950’s character by using elements that reflect a mid-century modern design aesthetic. These elements include flat roof lines, vertically oriented windows, cantilevered overhangs, and clean and contemporary lines.
Preservation of mid-century heritage signs. If re-use of the sign is not possible, new developments should integrate the heritage sign into the redevelopment through an adaptive re-use approach.
Conceptual rendering of Surrey Central area – Existing and Future SFU buildings in red.
A major transit hub will be located at the core of the district, building on the existing Surrey Central Exchange and SkyTrain station with the addition of light rail transit(LRT). The suburban style bus loop will be reconfigured into a new on-street transit exchange, as the bus layover and ice arenas are relocated away from the central core.
The presence of significant new university buildings will expand in the Central Downtown, creating a stronger campus identity and student energy at street level. Research buildings with large floor plates will have active retail street frontages and transparent storefronts to engage the pedestrian with the innovative internal uses.
Central City Mall Redevelopment:
Over the longer term, the Central City Mall property will redevelop to create a site that has improved interface and connection to Holland Park as well as a broader range of mixed of uses. The retail uses in the parking lot areas along King George Boulevard will intensify and include office and residential components.
The interface along Holland Park will also be improved with redevelopment of the parkade structures into high density residential buildings and aredesign that creates direct connection through the mall site to Holland Park.
Greenways and Parks Network
The downtown will be known for its green urban infrastructure of parks, plazas, greenways, planted boulevards, and rain gardens, as well as for its existing natural features that include fish bearing creeks, riparian areas, and spectacular views to the North Shore and North Cascade Mountains.
Rapid transit is a cornerstone of the City Centre, both for existing conditions as well as future planning. The existing elevated rapid train system (SkyTrain) links the City Centre with the region north of the Fraser River. A new Light Rail Train (LRT) network is planned to expand the rapid transit service. This network consists of two lines: the ‘L-line’, and the ‘Fraser Highway Line’, which is 17 kilometres long.
The vision for City Centre’s street network is for a finer-grained, connected framework that facilitates mobility and enhances the safety for all citizens, creating a vibrant, pedestrian-oriented downtown.
City Parkway will become a car-free zone from 102A Avenue to Central Avenue (103 Ave) and include an LRT station next to Surrey Central SkyTrain Station. The station area is planned as a signature LRT station with the termination of the Fraser Highway line, and intersection of the L-line along City Parkway.
There are three large public plazas in City Centre. The largest is the Civic Plaza, designed as contemporary open space which offers programmable open space for gatherings and large special events. The Civic Plaza will provide a central corridor that connects the institutions of the civic precinct.
The redevelopment of the Recreation Centre and the relocation of the North Surrey Arena’s will enable the extension of the Civic Plaza to the south, ultimately linking with the Central City Plaza to create one of Metro Vancouver’s largest urban plaza systems.
Whalley’s Corner Plaza at 108 Avenue and King George Boulevard will provide a contemporary link to the Whalley’s history, with opportunities for public art and interpretation.
King George Boulevard
King George Boulevard, between 102 Avenue and 104 Avenue, will emerge as a true “ Boulevard” , with the low intensity commercial and parking lot uses redeveloping into a street-facing downtown shopping area.
As part of humanizing King George Boulevard, a significant public art installation will be located in the centre of King George Boulevard median, in the residual road right-of-way area created by the narrowing of the street as the LRT turns onto 102 Avenue. As well, segregated cycle tracks will be introduced along King George Boulevard.
A public art walking loop linking key public art installations. Along the walk will be new art installations, building façade improvements, artistic street furniture, and banners. Corner plazas, seating areas and architectural featuring, will be realized along the art walk through the development of private property.
An iconic public art installation is envisioned as part of a cultural catalyst project within the City Centre Plaza. An art installation at a world-class scale, located within the core of City Centre, will inspire residents and visitors, energize an important public space and stimulate social interaction and discussion.
The proposed LRT system should incorporate public art features that promote unique community identities.
While there is too much information in the document to fully cover here, overall, this visionary new plan can be seen as at the forefront of contemporary urban design and planning. As it guides growth over the next few decades, Surrey City Centre is likely to become a world-leading example of how to transform a former suburban centre into a high-quality, mixed-use, mixed-density, environmentally sustaining, culturally rich, and desirable urban centre.
For much more on the new City Centre Plan, click below for the full report: