Surrey City Centre: A Decade in Review

With the new year upon us, it’s time for this blog’s annual review of the past year in Surrey City Centre, as well as a look at what can be expected ahead in 2020. Additionally this year, we will also take a look back at the past decade, which saw accelerating growth and transformation in City Centre, a trend likely to persist as Surrey’s downtown becomes further established, and continues to attract more people, businesses, institutions, and jobs.

Growth in 2019

Construction activity in Surrey City Centre reached record levels in 2019, with many projects approved in previous years entering the construction phase, joining others already under construction, and others completing. Overall 2019 construction activity is summarized below:

6 significant projects began construction

  • One Central | 44 Storeys
  • Georgetown One | 30 Storeys
  • Linea | Residential | 28 Storeys
  • Veterans Village | Mixed-Use | 20 Storeys
  • Camellia | Residential | 5 Storeys
  • La Voda | Residential | 6 Storeys

7 significant projects continued construction

  • King George Hub B | Residential, Office, Retail | 15 + 29 + 40 Storeys
  • Park Boulevard | Residential | 39 Storeys
  • King George Hub C | Rental Residential | 34 Storeys
  • City Centre 3 | Office, Retail | 10 Storeys
  • Fraser Landmark | Residential | 6 Storeys
  • Maverick | Residential | 5 Storeys
  • 13904 102 Ave | Residential | 4 Storeys

8 significant projects completed construction

  • Prime | Residential, Office, Retail | 37 Storeys
  • Evolve | Residential, Office, Retail | 36 Storeys
  • Aspire | Residential | 6 Storeys
  • Porte HQ | Residential | 6 Storeys
  • SFU Sustainable Energy & Environmental Engineering Building | 5 Storeys
  • 9909 140 St | Residential | 4 Storeys
  • Surrey Central Station Expansion
  • West Village Park & District Energy Centre
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One Central under excavation at Central Ave & 133A St
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Linea by Rize under construction at 104 Ave & 133 St
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King George Hub (Phase B) under construction at King George Blvd & Fraser Hwy
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Park Boulevard under construction on Whalley Blvd near 100 Ave
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King George Hub B & Park Boulevard as seen from Fraser Hwy
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Georgetown One under excavation at Whalley Blvd & 102 Ave
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City Centre 3 by Lark Group under construction on 96 Ave
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Aspire recently completed on 101 Ave near Whalley Blvd
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Prime completed in Fall 2019 at University Dr & Central Ave
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HQ by Porte at 140 St & 105A Ave completed early 2019
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Evolve completed in 2019 at Central Ave & 133 St
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SFU Sustainable Energy & Environmental Engineering Building completed in Spring 2019
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Surrey Central Station expansion completed in Spring 2019
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West Village Park & District Energy Centre completed in Spring 2019

As for new Development Applications, 2019 saw a drop from 2018’s record number of 25 applications, to 19 new applications. This is still well above all previous years in the decade between 2010 and 2017, indicating continued strong interest from the development community in 2019. These 19 new Development Applications included approximately 21 towers (>6 Storeys) and 14 low-rises (4-6 Storeys), comprising over 7,200 units and over 300,000 sq.ft. of commercial space in 2019 applications alone.

As of January 2020, in total there are currently 65 significant active applications either under review, approved, or under construction in City Centre consisting of approximately 69 high rises (>6 Storeys) and 44 low-rises (<6 Storeys), representing approximately 23,000 units and over 1,650,000 sq.ft. of commercial space. More info on all active projects can be found on the Active Projects in City Centre page. 

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Looking ahead to 2020

2019’s drop in Development Applications from that of 2018 can perhaps be seen as symptom of the cooling real estate market from its peak in 2017. Despite this drop, Development Application activity in City Centre remains strong, and can be expected to continue in 2020 with many new projects known to be in the early planning stages, likely to submit applications within the coming year. Of these, we’re likely to find out more details on the much anticipated Centre Block redevelopment (former North Surrey Rec Centre), rumoured to include significant office space, retail, and a further expansion of SFU, all integrated within a new transit plaza and revamped Surrey Central Station.

Aside from this, construction activity in 2020 can be expected to include:

7 significant project construction starts

  • University District | Residential, Retail | 28 + 37 Storeys
  • Park George | Residential | 35 + 39 Storeys
  • The Holland (Phase 1) | Residential | 25 Storeys
  • Central City II | Office | 25 Storeys (Potential late 2020 start)
  • Centra | Residential | 23 Storeys
  • Rosewood | Residential, Office | 5 Storeys
  • Parker | Residential | 4 Storeys

10 significant projects continued construction

  • One Central | 44 Storeys
  • King George Hub B | Residential, Office, Retail | 40 + 29 + 15 Storeys
  • Park Boulevard | Residential | 39 Storeys
  • King George Hub C | Rental Residential | 34 Storeys
  • Georgetown One | 30 Storeys
  • Linea | Residential | 28 Storeys
  • Veterans Village | Mixed-Use | 20 Storeys
  • City Centre 3 | Office, Retail | 10 Storeys
  • Camellia | Residential | 5 Storeys
  • La Voda | Residential | 6 Storeys

3 significant projects expected completion

  • Fraser Landmark | Residential | 6 Storeys
  • Maverick | Residential | 5 Storeys (Potential late 2020 completion)
  • 13904 102 Ave | Residential | 4 Storeys

Aside from this, we can also expect to find out more details on a number of high profile applications currently in the initial stages of review as they proceed to Council in 2020, such as:

  • Bosa’s upcoming 104 Ave & City Parkway project
  • King George Hub (Phase D)
  • Plaza 104 redevelopment
  • Holland Parkside by Century Group
  • A revised proposal for the GEC Education Mega Centre

Moving beyond 2020, it’s likely we will see an even further acceleration of the strong growth trend, as 2018 and 2019’s record development applications enter the construction stage, and other yet-to-be announced transformative projects begin to take shape. Accompanying this will be the extension of SkyTrain to Langley by the mid-to-late decade, which should further position Surrey City Centre as a regional downtown, within closer commuting distance to the rapidly growing Fraser Valley than Downtown Vancouver. With all this growth, Surrey City Centre is shaping up to become a remarkably different place by the end of the 2020’s than it is today, with more transformation likely in the coming decade, than in the past, or even past two combined.

Transformative ‘Gateway’ Project proceeds to Public Hearing

A transformative ‘Gateway’ project at the north end of City Centre along King George Blvd at Bolivar Rd received 1st & 2nd Readings at Council on Monday, and will now proceed to Public Hearing on January 13. The project, which has been in the planning stages for nearly 5 years, initially appeared before Council back in April 2018, but was referred back to Staff to work with the applicant on refining the proposal, and to determine a ‘significant amenity contribution’ in exchange for increased density on the site. Since then, the project, designed by Vancouver’s MCM Architects has undergone significant design refinements to create an ‘iconic’ gateway development consisting of 1,040 units within:

  • 37-Storey Residential Tower above a 7-Storey podium
  • 31-Storey Residential Tower above a 6-Storey podium
  • 26-Storey Residential Tower above a 6-Storey podium
  • Two 6-Storey Low-Rise Residential Buildings
  • A 5,673 sq.ft. Childcare Facility
  • A small Cafe

Under the current application however, only the 26-Storey Residential Tower, Childcare Facility, Cafe, and a large ‘Orchard Plaza’ will be built as a first phase at the corner of King George Blvd and Bolivar Rd. The remainder of the development will be subject to future detailed Development Permit applications. The first phase tower will consist of 239 units, with the Childcare Facility and Cafe at its base. The large interior ‘Orchard Plaza’ design by Vancouver’s PWL Partnership Landscape Architects is intended to “celebrate connections to local agriculture” and will incorporate fruit trees within moveable planters, in addition to seating, an open lawn space, playground space, and an interactive stormwater capturing feature.

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View looking south on King George Blvd from Bolivar Rd
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View looking south along Barker St from Bolivar Rd
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View of interior ‘Orchard Plaza’ from Barker St
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Close-up view of interior ‘Orchard Plaza’ with interactive stormwater feature
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View of Cafe and plaza at corner of King George and Bolivar within Phase 1
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Public realm entry into interior of site from King George Blvd
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View looking north along King George Blvd of landscaped sidewalk and bike path
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Proposed Phasing Plan
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Landscape Site Plan

Overall, the proposal is proposing a blended density of 4.2 FAR on the site, which exceeds the currently permitted 2.5 FAR in that area of the City Centre Plan, intended for 4-6-Storey development. As a condition of allowing the increased density, the developer is offering a significant community amenity contribution above and beyond what is required, as well as providing a significant number of ‘family-sized units’ of 2-bedrooms or larger.

In addition to the development itself, significant upgrades will be made to surrounding streets including an expansive new landscaped sidewalk and separated bike path along King George Blvd, and new dedication and construction of Barker Street to the north.

For more on the application:

https://www.surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/PLR_7917-0397-00.pdf

Passages by Rize heads to Council

Vancouver developer Rize is set to bring their latest and most ambitious project to date before Surrey Council on Monday for 1st & 2nd Readings, and approval to proceed to Public Hearing. Passages as it’s called, is a proposed master-planned mixed-use development at 10138 Whalley Blvd consisting of market condos, market rental apartments, retail, and daycare space, all situated within a European-style ‘piazza’ public plaza. In total the project is proposing:

  • 3 High-Rise towers and 1 Low-Rise (6, 23, 32 & 39 Storeys) containing 954 Market Condo Residential Units
  • 2 Mid-Rise towers (13 Storeys each) containing 172 Market Rental Residential Units
  • 18,116 sq.ft. of Ground Level Retail Space
  • 4,252 sq.ft. of Daycare Space
  • A 69,602 sq.ft. Publicly Accessible ‘Piazza’-Style Public Plaza
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Rendering of central public ‘Piazza’ space within Passages development

Designed by London, UK based Alison Brooks Architects, Passages brings a fresh departure from the standard point tower above podium form, commonly found throughout Metro Vancouver. Instead, the project consists of 6 irregularly-shaped buildings of varying heights, clustered around a ‘Piazza’-style public plaza.

The design takes inspiration from coastal BC forests, incorporating references to ‘textured tree bark’ on building facades, and the use of earth tones and materials. Interspersed single and double-storey units are present throughout the towers, adding variation in form and glazing pattern. The 6-storey building is a modern interpretation of the traditional ‘British mansion block’ merged with ground floor townhouses.

The site’s perimeter and courtyard are structured as open, barrier-free spaces that the public and residents can share and enjoy. A series of four distinct piazzas, City Piazza, Park Piazza, Central Piazza and Neighbourhood Piazza, are linked by narrow urban groves between buildings and enriched streetscape edges.

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The Landscape Architect on the project is Vancouver’s PWL Partnership tasked with designing the publicly accessibly open spaces comprised of the four landscaped piazzas. These spaces are animated with community agricultural gardens, an urban square with seating, a children’s play area, a great lawn for event and performance space, a yoga and exercise zone, a community harvest table, and an outdoor barbeque and games table space to encourage the public and residents to interact and socialize.

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Passages will replace two existing and aging, wood-frame, 4-storey apartment buildings known as Fraserview Court, built in the 1970’s. Rize is proposing to offset the loss of the 154 existing rental residential units on site by providing 172 new rental residential units in two new 13-Storey concrete mid-rises as part of re-development. These rental units will be secured for a period of 20-years, through a Housing Agreement with the City. Rize is also assisting existing residents facing displacement through a City policy directed Tenant Relocation and Assistance Plan.

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The project is proposed to be built in 3 phases, which includes:

Phase 1 (Targeted Completion: May 2023)

  • 13-Storey Mid-Rise with Market Rental Residential (88 Units), Ground Floor Cafe, and Daycare
  • 23-Storey High-Rise with Market Condo Residential (212 Units)

Phase 2 (Targeted Completion: June 2024)

  • 6-Storey Low-Rise with Market Condo Residential (66 Units)
  • 32-Storey High-Rise with Market Condo Residential (304 Units), and Ground Level Retail

Phase 3 (Targeted Completion: August 2024)

  • 13-Storey Mid-Rise with Market Rental Residential (84 Units), and Ground Level Retail
  • 39-Storey High-Rise with Market Condo Residential (372 Units)

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In terms of approvals, the development is seeking:

  • City Centre Plan amendment to increase density on the site from 3.5 FAR to 5.5 FAR
  • Official Community Plan amendment to increase density on the site from 3.5 FAR to 5.5 FAR
  • Rezoning from Multiple Residential 45 Zone to Comprehensive Development Zone (Based on RM-135 & C-8)
  • Subdivision from 1 to 3 lots
  • Development Permit to allow for 3 High-Rise Buildings, 2 Mid-Rise Buildings, and 1 Low-Rise Building.

For more information on Passages:

https://www.surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/PLR_7918-0289-00.pdf

Central City II to proceed to Public Hearing

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After being referred back to Staff by Council on September 16 due to a misunderstanding over building height, Central City II returned to Council tonight to receive 1st & 2nd Readings and the OK to proceed to Public Hearing in 2 weeks. No changes were made to the proposal, which will proceed based on its original 25-storey (382′) height. The re-introduced planning report included better contextual information to help convey to the Mayor and Council how the building will fit into the surrounding area, as well as the sheer volume of office space it will contain given its large floor plate. The Mayor and Council had previously sent the application back to staff, having thought the tower would be shorter than the 35-Storey residential towers across the street at King George. McCallum’s arguments included:

  • “This is not a highrise development”
  • “Twenty-five storeys in our City Centre is way too low.”
  • “The towers at King George Station across the street are taller”
  • “We have only a certain amount of land in our City Centre and it’s really important to make sure we use that land appropriately”

In reality, the 25-Storey office tower would be slightly taller than the 35-storey residential tower across the street due to differences between residential and office floor heights. Central City 2 is proposed at 382 ft. while the Infinity tower at Concord Park Place is 377 ft. Further, if Central City II were built today, it would be the 3rd tallest building in Surrey after 3 Civic Plaza (538 ft.) and Park Avenue West (393 ft.). This would not be the case for long however, with 3 other towers currently under construction exceeding the height of Central City 2. Once those are completed, Central City 2 would be the 6th tallest in Surrey, yet still at comparable height to others in the top 5.

  • 3 Civic Plaza (538 ft.)
  • One Central (438 ft.)
  • Park Boulevard (407 ft.)
  • King George Hub B1 (404 ft.).
  • Park Avenue West (393 ft.)
  • Central City II (382 ft.)
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Comparison of Surrey’s tallest towers (built & under construction) with Central City II

Height aside, the sheer volume of office space to be provided by the building will bring a significant boost to the City Centre, where demand is currently high, and vacancy low. Central City 2 is to contain 567,114sq.ft. of class AAA commercial office space, when currently there is a total of just 1.2 million in the entire City Centre. That’s adding half the current amount of office space in City Centre in a single building. In addition, the building is to contain 16,168 sq.ft. of ground floor retail and restaurant space in its large podium spanning an entire city block. A market analysis commissioned by the developer found the amount of proposed space to be adequate in meeting current demand in City Centre.

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Central City 2 (far right) along with conceptual future redevelopment of mall site
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Model of Central City 2 along with conceptual future redevelopment of mall site

More information on the proposal can be found in the planning report below:

https://www.surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/PLR_7918-0428-00(1).pdf

Excavation begins for Surrey’s 2nd tallest tower – One Central

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Earlier this month, excavation began for what is to become Surrey’s 2nd tallest tower – One Central in West Village. The 44-Storey, 134m (438 ft.) tower by China-based developer Aoyuan will rise at the corner of 133A St and Central Ave, adding to the growing cluster of towers in the densely populated West Village neighbourhood.

Once complete, the tower will contain 550 units, including 11 ground-oriented townhouses at its base, and 4,596 sq. ft. of ground-level retail space. The building will also include 11,501 sq. ft. of indoor amenity space throughout the building on levels 1, 3, 14, 34, and 44 – signified by horizontal architectural breaks in the tower, and 10,247 sq. ft. of outdoor amenity space, including an expansive rooftop deck. 

With excavation now underway, building completion can be expected by late 2022 / early 2023.

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https://onecentral.ca

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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