The old Rona store sign stands near the demolished building, to make way for the future Newton Community Centre on the site, in the 6900-block of King George Boulevard. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

The old Rona store sign stands near the demolished building, to make way for the future Newton Community Centre on the site, in the 6900-block of King George Boulevard. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

VIDEO: Site of future Newton Community Centre picked without consultation, BIA says

For $90M project, city ‘bought the house and now they’re asking the kids where they want to live’

Site preparation has begun for the future Newton Community Centre, a $90 million project planned for the 6900-block of King George Boulevard, on the west side of Surrey’s busiest north-south road.

The former Rona store has been demolished on the site, and more demo work will continue in coming weeks.

“Geotechnical investigation” for the site has been completed, according to city hall, and a consultants’ team will soon be hired. “Design of the new community centre will begin in mid-May 2021, and construction will begin in the winter of 2022,” says a city-issued press release. “The new facility is expected to be open to the public by the end of 2024.”

But what about community consultation to this point?

It’s a question asked by Philip Aguirre, executive director of Newton Business Improvement Association (BIA). He wonders why the site was chosen for a community centre when the area’s “civic core” is located across the street, where an existing recreation centre stands, closer to 72nd Avenue.

“It just seems that it wasn’t very well planned out,” Aguirre told the Now-Leader on Wednesday (May 5). “We’ve had official community plans with years of consultation and then they announce a project like this, in the middle of it, on the other side of King George.

“A project like this, it’s just another example of how consultation isn’t being done in this city,” Aguirre charged. “The location is important, too. You know, with this (project) they’ve already bought the house and now they’re asking the kids where they want to live.”

Aguirre, who operates Old Surrey Restaurant, now closed due to the pandemic, posted to Twitter his thoughts about the future community centre, both before and after the City of Surrey posted a press release about the project.

The news release includes video of Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum talking about the project, and also shows him operating an excavator to knock down “the first wall” of the old Rona store, but makes no mention of community consultation related to the future community centre.

However, a post on the city’s website (surrey.ca) says “community engagement and facility utilization trends will guide the development process to determine facility needs and phased delivery of amenities.”

The $90 million budgeted for the project is for land acquisition and construction, according to the city’s latest capital plan.

“This new 75,000 sq. ft. community centre will offer multiple components, including, Library, Recreation, and Culture programming, similar to the Clayton Community Centre,” says a corporate report approved by the city council last fall. “Parks amenities will also be included on the site.

“The new facility will benefit the community of Newton,” the report adds. “The community centre will have cultural and arts services, seniors, youth, fitness, and recreation programming. It will also include gymnasiums, a weight room, multi-purpose rooms, a licensed preschool, and childcare and afterschool programming. The grounds will have passive and active sheltered and unsheltered park facilities for all ages to enjoy.”

In the news release, McCallum said he’s “proud of just how quickly we have been able to get this project moving. With the demolition underway, we are one step closer to bringing long overdue recreational opportunities to the residents of Newton. This new state-of-the-art facility is another vital step in the revitalization of this growing community.”

Aguirre said he has a meeting planned with Surrey parks and recreation staff to talk about the precise vision for Newton Community Centre.

“A project like this impacts the long-term outcome of the area,” Aguirre said, “and when we’re not consulted or part of the process to decide where it goes, I question that. I could be convinced if experts are telling me, ‘This is what we should be doing,’ but that has never happened, nobody has talked to me about that.”

In 2015 Aguirre pitched the idea of a spectator arena in the Newton Town Centre, as part of the BIA’s 20-year vision for the area.

“We had drawings done, and it didn’t really go anywhere,” he recalled. “It was a blue-sky idea about what we could imagine it to be. So then the question was about rapid transit, and the LRT was scrapped and now rapid transit won’t be coming to Newton for many years.… There are so many things up in the air, but now this is the plan, a new community centre.”

• RELATED STORY, from October 2020: Surrey buying 16 properties in Newton for parkland, civic amenities.

Last October, the city council unanimously authorized city staff to purchase 16 adjacent parcels of land in Newton for future parkland, road alignment and civic projects. The move involved 7.24 acres, part of which embraces the former site of the Rona store, which closed permanently on Jan. 26.

More details about Surrey’s capital projects for the next five years can be found on surrey.ca/about-surrey/capital-projects. They include Newton Community Centre, an interactive art museum in City Centre, City Centre Sports Complex, Cloverdale Sport & Ice Complex, Bear Creek Park Athletics Centre and other projects.

with a file from Tom Zytaruk



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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