The $66-million Legion Veterans Village that aims to address a “critical shortage of services” is one step closer to reality after receiving an early nod from city council Monday night.
Surrey council voted unanimously to give the project first and second reading, and the development will be at public hearing on June 25.
The project was one that Mayor Linda Hepner said she intended to fast track as part of a “nexus” program for “transformative, city-shaping” projects, and the developer said city hall has done just that.
“I have to give a shout out to the staff and how great they have been to get this great project moving forward,” said Kirk Fisher, senior VP of Lark Group. “Government or a CEO says, ‘Hey, let’s do this,’ then the team is left to figure it out. And the team at city hall has done an amazing job.”
Updated design plans and renderings were included in the application before city council Monday, and they reveal significant changes to the project since last fall.
See also: Surrey’s Veterans Village, by design Nov. 16, 2017
See also: Iron Soldier fights to walk again as he leaves legacy in Surrey March 16, 2018
“Originally the project was one site, but land cost in the area was quite high, or strong, so we decided as a team, with the legion and Lark, to subdivide it so the legion has the same end use but they’re able to sell the second piece of land,” Fisher said of the project, which is a partnership between the Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon Commmand, the Whalley Legion and Lark Group.
“When it was a single tower, the game plan was for it to look as much like the Vimy Ridge Memorial as possible,” Fisher noted. “Then we added market housing, for a couple reasons, number one to help with numbers because that’s density you can sell but also to help with the look of the building. We wanted that added height to be able to mimic Vimy Ridge better.”
In phase one, a 20-storey mixed-use tower will be constructed that takes inspiration from the iconic Vimy site.
“The sun shades placed on the exterior of the building facing City Parkway extend up the tower in a pattern that reflects the shape of the twin columns of the iconic Canadian war memorial, while the use of red is inspired by the colour of the remembrance poppy,” a report to council notes. “The red sun shades are repeated on each face of the Veterans Village tower, but in a simpler fashion. The materials on the tower consist largely of red, white and silver metal panels and clear glass walls.”
This building will have 148 apartments on levels eight to 20. Levels four to seven will have 48 affordable rental housing units for veterans, first responders and their families, to be operated by Chelsea Society in partnership with BC Housing.
The tower will house 10 transitional units which will provide short-term housing for individuals post-hospital discharge who are not ready to live independently. This area of the building will also be home to a support centre for veterans and first responders, operated by WeCare.
The building will also house Canada’s first “Centre of Excellence” in PTSD and mental health; a research and rehabilitation centre focusing on robotics and devices to help amputees, exoskeletons, and neuroscience; an operational stress injury clinic; and office space.
The Whalley Legion’s new home will be on the ground floor of building, as will cadet training space, a coffee shop and a medical clinic.
The second 26-storey tower, to be built in phase two, will be entirely market residential units, including 14 ground-level townhomes and 311 apartments.
It’s anticipated that the project will break ground this fall, with an anticipated completion date of 2020, pending city approvals.
The new building will be steps away from a tent city that currently occupies 135A Street. Fisher said it’s hoped the temporary modular housing units will be opening soon, which is expected to help house some along the street.
“Lark has built a lot of project in dense areas before and safety is the ultimate concern so the project will be kept safe through appropriate fencing and security guards regardless,” said Fisher. “But we believe the temporary accommodation will help with a lot of the situation.
“It’s a major concern everyone in Surrey needs to address,” he added. “We need to help the homeless.”
The team is still on the hunt for a temporary home for the Whalley Legion, where it will operate from while construction is underway. A release notes several locations have been identified and a decision is expected in the coming weeks.
Meantime, the Whalley Legion is in the midst of organizing its “Hawaiian Themed Pig Roast and Country Jam Session,” set for 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, June 24.
The event is open to the entire community and this year, includes Polynesian dancers (5 p.m. & 6 p.m.) and a country jam session for those who want to join in.
The event coincides with Legion Week, from June 22 to 28. For more information call 604-581-3441.