City plan calls for 20-storey towers in South Surrey
Six years after the community killed a proposal to turn Semiahmoo Mall into a high density, transit hub, the City is backing a modified plan that calls for less height, but more than local residents will likely desire.
Back in 2006, Bosa Properties purchased Semiahmoo Centre and proposed that the old mall be transformed into a mixed use site with six residential towers, featuring heights up to 36 storeys, and a new road network throughout the site. After vocal opposition from local residents, citing concerns about traffic, density, and the loss of the “small town feel”, the plans were halted and the property was sold. The new owners recently completed minor improvements to the mall.
Residents desired that the area remain limited to four/six-storey buildings, despite the fact that across 16th Ave, White Rock has built several large towers. If they thought they had won the battle, they were wrong. In consultation with developers, the City has determined that a six storey height is insufficient to drive re-development, therefore higher buildings will be necessary. In addition, the Planning Department has also expanded the area of the town centre plan to include a northern stretch of low density homes along 152 St, and an eastern portion along 16th which developers hope to transform into a medical precinct with the Peace Arch Hospital.
There is much to admire in the new plan. The City has mandated commercial or institutional uses on the ground floor along 152 St, which will ensure that one of Surrey’s most walkable streets becomes even more pleasant for the pedestrian. A new density bonus area will allow for greater height to pay for community amenities such as arts space, affordable seniors housing, transportation improvements and park spaces. The Planning Department has outlined a number of lots that will need consolidation for re-development, a useful tool for developers looking to work in the area. The plan also includes the creation of several new local roads to create a finer grid network, as well as the dedication of new entry plaza and gateway structures at 19 Ave and 16 Ave.
The height will be the sticking factor for community members adamant against density or change. The new maximum building height is 20 storeys, although 3 sites will be reserved for additional height in exchange for landmark designs and green building standards. It remains to be seen how residents will respond to the new plan and whether Council will send this revision back to the drawing board once again.