A rendering of the proposed Whalley development. (Photo submitted)

Surrey council approves ‘iconic’ project that aims to revitalize Whalley

Flamingo Block development ‘desperately needed,’ says Downtown Surrey BIA CEO Elizabeth Model

WHALLEY — Redevelopment plans for Whalley’s Flamingo Block are moving ahead after city council approved the application Monday night.

Council gave third reading to the project that is being described as “innovative” and “critical” to Whalley’s revitalization.

James Stewart, who has been a lawyer in Surrey for nearly 40 years, told city council that his office in the Gateway tower faces Whalley and that he’s “watched the community evolve, and in some cases deterioriate over all those years.”

Stewart said the development will be “an iconic gateway project that will help rewrite the image of Surrey in general and Whalley in particular” and create a “balanced community.”

“A new community rising out of the wounded community that exists right now,” Stewart continued, “despite the determined efforts of the city and so many other organizations and residents. I don’t believe that Whalley can heal unless physical changes are made that promote and facilitate an influx of new residents. It will be those new residents that form and reform this community.”

The Tien Sher development, at 13665 107A Ave. and 10740 and 10768 King George Blvd., would see a 35-storey high rise and six-storey building constructed during the first phase of the project. Over the next decade or so the developer plans to build three residential towers in all, along with some smaller buildings and some inviting park space on 4.3 acres.

The proposal requires an OCP (Official Community Plan) amendment to increase density, a City Centre Plan amendment as well as a portion of the properties to be rezoned. The developer must now work with the city toward completing the necesary requirement before final adoption.

During the public hearing, 61 people voiced their support for the project (14 who spoke at the hearing), and one was opposed.

“Whalley is at a tipping point,” Surrey resident and CEO of Fifth Avenue Real Estate Marketing Scott Brown told city council.

Brown said the area is the “disregarded step sister” as King George and Surrey Central SkyTrain stations see more and more development around them.

“This particular development is a critical, critical development for signalling the future of Whalley and actually drawing the positive attention that Whalley already has but needs more of,” he added.

Rourke Anderson, who owns Surrey MMA at 10708 136A St., urged council to approve the project before the vote.

“I’ve watched the area in the last year deteriorate even more so,” said Anderson, referring to “a mecca of tents” along 135A Street.

“I unfortunately have the RCMP non-emergency and emergency on speed dial because when we’re teaching people to be better people and right across he street is, in some cases, the exact opposite. It can be very disconcerting,” he told city council. “As a young business owner, I hope you can help this plan. It means the world to all the students that we brought here with us today and the children.”

Several business leaders also urged council to approve the project, including Surrey Board of Trade’s Anita Huberman and Downtown Surrey BIA’s Elizabeth Model.

Huberman said the “innovative” development is necessary for Whalley’s revitalization “into the vision of a city centre.” She urged council to fast-track it.

She also praised the walkability the development encourages as well as other “highly desireable” amenities such as plenty of greenspace that she said will “provide an attractive entrance to the City Centre” and the space for non-profits and arts groups.

“It will be a social, economic and central hub,” Huberman said, later adding, “It will be affordable, increasing our housing supply that we so desperately need. It will create a vibrancy in this area.”

Model said the project is “desperately needed” and referred to a letter the DSBIA sent to Mayor and council asking them to expedite development north of 104th Avenue.

Developer Charan Sethi, with Tien Sher Group, has been building condominium projects in Whalley since 2005, among them three Quattro developments, Balance and Venue.

“I’ve been trying to develop the Whalley area, and trying to get Whalley on the map in a good way, not a bad way,” Sethi said in a recent interview with the Now-Leader.

For nearly two years now Sethi’s been trying to rezone the Flamingo Block.

Sethi also told the Now-Leader that he wants to launch arts and culture in their program.

“What we’ve done is partner up with some of the people in the arts and culture area and say OK, you know what, we’re going to give you space in our building. You’re going to be able to have a base where you can start arts and culture. We need something like that.”

Sethi said the Whalley community “has been bashed” around, “like a small little kid in a classroom all the time so I thought, you know what, let’s get the people in Whalley have a say in what they think they are, and get them going.”

amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

with files from Tom Zytaruk