Concord to build more towers, convention centre pushed
For about five years now, Mayor Dianne Watts and her staff have followed an ambitious vision to create a vibrant, sky-scraping, new downtown core in the heart of an old part of Surrey.
Sure, thanks to the recent global recession, this quest has sometimes had challenges.
But yesterday morning, the mayor’s vision for a new Surrey City Centre was looking splendid — especiallywhen viewedfromthe36thfloor of a new downtown residential tower. The occasion was a traditional “topping off” ceremony of developer Concord Pacific’s Park Place North Tower just off King George Boulevard and overlooking London Park and the nearby SkyTrain system. From up here, it offers a grand bird’seye view of the extent and scope of downtown Surrey’s rebirth.
And the fact that it’s deep-pocketed Concord Pacific pouring the ceremonial final bucket of concrete on this 698-suite residential tower shows that, in Surrey, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
For Concord is the developer who transformed downtown Vancouver’s former Expo 86 site on False Creek into a worldwide envy of city-centre rebuilding.
It focused on Surrey City Centre about a year ago after one of the three-hectare site’s towers had already been completed, while two more stood just partially completed. That’s because the project had been stopped dead in its tracks in October 2008 after its financier, New York-based Lehman Brothers investment bank, collapsed.
Yesterday, Concord Pacific president and chief executive officer Terry Hui stated emphatically that his company took over this project because it saw that Mayor Watts and her team have their act together.
“Surrey has a very clear strategic plan for developing its city centre,” he said. “Mayor Watts has also been out promoting her city and that’s bringing in more investment and development. We’ll build two more towers here and now we’re looking at other Surrey projects.”
Hui also said the other components Surrey is placing in the City Centre helps attract investment as well. These include the new regional library now under construction, an expanding Simon Fraser University campus and an enlarging Surrey Memorial Hospital, together with planned projects such as a new RCMP “E” Division headquarters and a new Surrey City Hall.
Relocating city hall to the core is a vital next step, Watts suggests.
“It’s really important that when you expect private-sector investors to invest in your new city centre that you be seen doing the same thing,” she says.
However, the task of attracting new investment for Surrey City Centre is far from over. The next major step forward is to acquire a major hotel-convention centre complex.
“Moving city hall to the new core sends a positive message to investors, but we’re also in dire need of a Pan Pacific-style hotel and convention centre,” Surrey Board of Trade chief executive Anita Huberman tells me.
But I expect the hotel complex will happen soon because the story of Surrey’s core redevelopment is spreading. Surrey, you see, was was recently ranked as B. C.’s top spot for real-estate investment – that industry — for the second year in a row.