‘North Surrey Medical’ Heritage Revitalization heads to Council

A proposal to revitalize the North Surrey Medical Building at 9656 King George Blvd in the emerging Health & Technology District is heading to Council on Monday for 1st & 2nd Readings. The project, by Vancouver’s Rize Alliance, is seeking to restore and integrate the 1960’s North Surrey Medical Building on site into a new mixed-use development consisting of a new 4-storey office and retail podium along King George Blvd, and a new 31-storey residential tower behind. The project was first reported on here back in February when it passed ADP.

According to the Planning Report to Council, the application is seeking both OCP and City Centre Plan amendments for increased density from 3.5 FAR to 5.5 FAR to allow for the proposed development. In exchange for the increased density, the project is proposing to preserve and revitalize the 1960’s North Surrey Medical Building on-site under a Heritage Revitalization Agreement. In total the project is to contain:

    • 293 Apartment Units
    • 5 Townhouse Units
    • 34,369 sq.ft.sq.ft. of Commercial Space with within the revitalized North Surrey Medical Building and new adjacent 4-storey podium (including ground floor retail along King George Blvd)

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A landscaped courtyard designed by Vancouver’s PWL Partnership will separate the residential and commercial portions of the project. The Architect on the project is Stantec.

In addition to the revitalization of the North Surrey Medical Building, the applicant will be providing community amenity contributions including funding towards enhancements to Quibble Creek in the area. Contributions will also be provided for construction of a new east-west lane to the directly adjacent north of the site in the future, and towards the City’s Affordable Housing Strategy.

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For more information on the project:

Public Consultation to Begin for Surrey Langley SkyTrain and South Fraser Rapid Transit Refresh

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Public consultation is set to get underway this month for the proposed Surrey Langley SkyTrain (SLS) extension, as well as the future of rapid transit along 104 Avenue & King George Blvd.

In 2014, the regional Mayors Council identified Fraser Highway, King George Boulevard, and 104 Avenue as priority corridors for rapid transit South of the Fraser in the 10-Year Vision. Following a study looking at combinations of SkyTrain, LRT, and Bus Rapid Transit for the corridors, the Mayors Council decided on 27-km of urban-style LRT on dedicated track (separate from traffic) on each of the corridors to be built over 2 phases:

  • Phase 1: Surrey-Newton-Guildford Line on 104 Avenue & King George Boulevard
  • Phase 2: Surrey-Langley Line on Fraser Highway

With funding in place to cover the entire first phase, and construction set to begin this year – a last minute request was made in 2018 by Surrey’s new Council to the regional Mayors’ Council to suspend the Phase 1 Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT line and re-direct funding to the Phase 2 Surrey-Langley line instead, while switching the technology of the Phase 2 line to SkyTrain. The Mayors’ Council voted to move forward with this request, and directed TransLink to begin planning work for SkyTrain on Fraser Highway while at the same time re-visit rapid transit plans for 104 Avenue and King George Boulevard corridors.

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Proposed Surrey Langley SkyTrain route and conceptual stations

The switch of priorities to the Phase 2 Fraser Highway line and changing its technology to SkyTrain has had implications both in budget and timeline. The funding that was allocated for the full Phase 1 Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT line has been identified as inadequate to fund the entire Fraser Highway SkyTrain extension to Langley. Pending a future round of funding (timeline unclear), the line may have to be phased, with the current funding getting the line potentially only as far as Fleetwood. Start of construction and delivery of new rapid transit South of the Fraser is also now delayed by approximately 2 years as a result of the switch.

Despite the funding and timeline uncertainties, planning work is nonetheless well underway for the new SLS line, which will need to involve a significant re-evaluation of land-use plans along the Fraser Highway corridor to support SkyTrain, completion of a number of supportive studies, and extensive Public Consultation. In a project update report to Surrey Council this week – a preliminary timeline was given for this work by TransLink, with start of service targeted for 2025.

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To run concurrently with the SLS planning and consultation work will be a planning process to ‘refresh’ the South Fraser Rapid Transit Strategy for delivering the Mayors’ Council fully envisioned 27km of Rapid Transit along each of the Fraser Hwy, King George Blvd, and 104 Ave corridors. This refresh will look to re-examine and engage the public on what rapid transit along the remaining corridors could look like, now that SkyTrain has been chosen as the technology for Fraser Hwy. The 2013 Rapid Transit Alternatives Study identified Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for these corridors based on a scenario with SkyTrain on Fraser Hwy. With much LRT planning work having now been completed however, for the 104 Ave and King George Blvd corridors, it’s possible that LRT could still be an option for them rather than BRT, especially given Surrey’s long-term rapid transit vision for an extensive LRT network on major arterials across the City.

The first round of Public Consultation on the SLS line and South Fraser Rapid Transit refresh gets underway on April 11 in Langley, with open houses in Surrey on April 15, 16, and 17. TransLink has also recently launched an online survey where you can voice your feedback on the proposed SLS line. Open House times are set for the following dates and locations between 3-8pm:

  • Thursday, April 11 – Langley City Hall
  • Monday, April 15 – Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex (Fleetwood)
  • Tuesday, April 16 – Surrey City Hall
  • Wednesday, April 17 – Newton Seniors Centre

More info on the land-use planning review process for the Fraser Highway Corridor being undertaken by the City of Surrey can be found here: https://www.surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/CR_2019-R059.pdf

Heritage revitalization at 9656 King George passes ADP

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A heritage revitalization project being proposed by Vancouver developer Rize Alliance at 9656 King George Blvd just north of Surrey Memorial Hospital, received unanimous approval by Surrey’s Advisory Design Panel (ADP) on February 14. The project, which must still appear before Council for approvals, is proposing to restore the 1969-built North Surrey Medical Building, while adding a new ‘twin’ commercial podium, and residential tower to the site.

The North Surrey Medical Building is listed in the Surrey City Centre Plan as a ‘Potential Heritage Resource’. If approved, the project will officially add the building to the City’s Heritage Register, and help to preserve and enhance mid-century heritage within the City Centre – a goal of the City Centre Plan.

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Subject Site at 9656 King George Blvd

Aside from the Heritage Revitalization Agreement for the North Surrey Medical Building, the proposal is seeking to Rezone the subject site from CHI to CD, Consolidate 2 lots into 1, and obtain a Development Permit in order to construct 276 residential units and 1486 sq. m. of commercial space. The new commercial space is to occupy a new ‘twin’ 4-storey podium consisting of ground floor retail and 3 floors of office – adjacent to and resembling the original 1960’s building.

Now that the project has passed ADP – it can be expected to appear before Council within the coming months. More renderings and project details can also be expected at that time.

For more on the proposal: https://apps.surrey.ca/Online-Development-Inquiry/?year=18&seq=0276

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.

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.