For five years and counting, it’s been the number-one question for residents and businesses alike: what’s happening with the Cloverdale Mall site?
About 30 people turned out for last week’s update on Cloverdale West Village, where Surrey City Development Corp. officials and business leaders struck a conciliatory-sounding tone for the most part.
The dilapidated mall was torn down in 2011 in order to redevelop the former City of Surrey property in phases as a blend of commercial and residential units called Cloverdale West Village.
Those plans stalled when environmental contamination from a former dry cleaner was discovered, ushering in remediation efforts even as site servicing work got underway, leading to a sense of frustration in the historic town centre.
Ongoing remediation efforts to clean up soil contamination have delayed the project, but SCDC officials are optimistic progress is being made and that two phases will be completed within five years.
“This has been a very complex site,” Coun. Dave Woods said at a Nov. 17 meeting at the Cloverdale Legion, called at his urging after an SCDC open house in Cloverdale last month was sparsely attended by the public. “They inherited a whole bunch of problems.”
Remediation is expected to be complete in September 2016, and two developers are actively working with SCDC on development plans.
The initial phase was to have housed a new hall for Cloverdale Legion Branch 6 along with new commercial and residential units, but that’s no longer the case.
Instead, the Cloverdale Legion is staying put, and will soon undergo renovations that will bring it up-to-date. Meanwhile, phase one partner Townline Homes has agreed to develop the southwest corner of the site as a four-storey, residential and commercial building that’s expected to break ground in 2016.
The second developer is Mosaic, which is seriously looking to build on the section directly north of the Cloverdale Legion, a portion of the property that can’t be developed until remediation is complete.
SCDC development manager Jaret Lang gave an overview of how remediation is progressing, before opening it up to questions from the floor.
There were a number of questions about the remediation work.
Some also wondered why benches, sidewalks and street lights have been installed, even though the construction phase is still some distance away.
Lang said the city required SCDC as developers taking over the site to complete subdivision and site servicing, along with installing finishes like benches and lights in advance of development, Lang said.
“So I know it seems a little bit silly right now, and the timing hasn’t worked out so that you aren’t actually looking at a nice development,” he said.
The site – openly criticized as an eyesore by the Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce and the Cloverdale BIA – recently had temporary fencing and graphics put up at SCDC’s cost, but the materials proved a poor match with recent autumn windstorms.
“To be honest, I don’t think the BIA was thinking that was going to be the result of the fencing,” Cloverdale BIA president Rob Paterson said. “We were thinking it was going to be something a lot more permanent.”
Lang promised a better solution for fencing the site is in the works, and that the property itself will be redeveloped.
“There’s a deep commitment from SCDC to make this right,” he said. “We’re spending a lot of time and money trying to make this right. It doesn’t look like it, I know.”
Paul Orazietti, executive director of the Cloverdale BIA, offered an apology on behalf of the community to SCDC.
“I think your group has made some giant leaps forward to be involved in what’s probably one of the most complicated land deals in the history of an area that I’ve ever come across,” he said, adding, SCDC has been more open and cooperative.
“You can sense that there’s a lot of frustration because this land was originally at the centre of town and it’s taken a great amount of time,” he said.
Orazietti complimented Mosaic for demonstrating a level of cooperation and interest in meeting with the community, but said the BIA was disappointed in Townline.
“They’ve been in the process for quite some time and their dialogue with the community has been virtually non-existent,” he said. “We’re working in a vacuum with them.”
A current project timeline has now been posted at scdc.ca, along with an extensive description of the ongoing remediation efforts.