Large ‘iconic gateway’ housing project proposed in City Centre

If approved, the City Centre project could set ‘undesirable precedent,’ according to Surrey staff

CITY CENTRE — A developer is seeking a significant bump in density in the hopes of building a “transformative” housing project that would serve as an “iconic gateway” to Surrey when driving off the Pattullo Bridge.

A preliminary application put before council Monday night proposes 929 homes, including 42 townhouses and 887 apartments. One 22-storey and two 24-storey towers are proposed, with podiums, as are a pair of six-storey apartment buildings.

The developer is seeking an increase in density, as well as an increase in height allowance from six storeys to 24.

The site is located at the northern edge of City Centre, at the intersection of King George Boulevard and Bolivar Road, and envisioned is a “master-planned, residential community which will provide a range of housing options for residents,” according to the application, submitted by a numbered company with Renante Solivar of MCM Architects listed as agent.

The application states the project – proposed at 13317 and 13335 King George Blvd. as well as 13377 Barker St. – would include “significant public spaces to encourage outdoor gathering and pedestrian activity.”

Staff note that if approved, the proposal could “set an undesirable precedent for future development proposals seeking a density and build form that is non-compliant with the existing land use planning and policy framework established in the City Centre Plan and the OCP.”

The current City Centre Plan specifies the clustering of the tallest and most dense buildings should be centred around SkyTrain stations. Further, the proposed density and tower heights don’t comply with existing guidelines for the City Centre area and staff note it will “impact the vision for the City Centre skyline as outlined” in the plan.

During Monday’s land-use meeting, Councillor Dave Woods said it’s important to him that there be “an iconic building” if council is going to allow this type of density.

“From my point, from what I saw, I didn’t think the building that was there was iconic enough for my liking, but it’s just a start,” he added. “I really would like to see the (proponent) referred back to staff and work with staff on this issue.”

While Councillor Bruce Hayne said he appreciates the effort and consultation that have gone into creating the City Centre Plan, he noted this proposal is “literally just across the street from the types of densities that are in the City Centre Plan. So I’m comfortable that it’s in that proximity.”

Hayne praised early artist renderings, “particularly with the living wall rotating around, spiralling around the buildings.”

To proceed, the applicant would require council’s blessing for an amendment to the Official Community Plan that would re-designate the site from Multiple Residential to Central Business District Designation, and for the site to be included in Central Business District Densities, with a permitted density of 3.5 FAR (floor area ratio).

As is, the application does not comply with existing City Centre Urban Design Guideline with respect to building height, massing and interface guidelines.

A City Centre Plan amendment would also be required, from low to mid rise 2.5 FAR, to mid to high rise 3.5 FAR.

In addition to the increase of density to 3.5 FAR, the applicant seeks a 20 per cent density bonus, to 4.2.

A report from city staff notes the application was sent to council ahead of a full application review as it involves a “significant policy-related decision, and it was not considered practical to undertake all of the work associated with refining and detailing the proposal until it is determined if council is prepared to consider the required OCP and City Centre Plan amendments that will be precedent-setting.”

While staff recommended council endorse “Option A” – which would have involved referring the application back to staff to develop a plan that would align with requirements set out in the existing City Centre Plan – council voted unanimously to endorse “Option C.”

That option has referred the application back to staff to continue to process the application at the density currently proposed, but with the consideration of a provision there be a “significant amenity contribution” above and beyond the required City Centre Amenity Charges and City Centre-specific Development Cost Charges. The application w ill return to council with a completed rezoning and development permit submission at a future meeting.

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