Changing Surrey

Surrey, for my readers not familiar with Metro Vancouver, is the second most populous city in the region next to Vancouver itself. However, it is probably the largest city in terms of land area and it is the fastest growing municipality in the region. Surrey is currently the “second city” in Metro Vancouver, but it will likely surpass Vancouver some time in the future.

Coast Capital Savings headquarters under construction

One cloudy day in September, I had time to myself and decided to hop on the SkyTrain and head east to the end of the Expo Line at King George Station. The future of Surrey is evident right on the door step of King George Station. Coast Capital Savings, one of the largest credit unions in B.C., is building its new headquarters right next door to the SkyTrain terminus.

Coast Capital construction

Surrey is slowly, but surely, changing itself and many developments are happening in Surrey’s City Centre. The opening of a major financial headquarters in Surrey’s downtown is one sign that Surrey is pushing ahead.

Surrey Memorial Hospital
public art at Surrey Memorial Hospital

Surrey Memorial Hospital is just down the road and has literally transformed itself. A giant, brand-spanking new wing facing onto King George Boulevard is evident to passers-by. The sheer size of the new building shows the importance of this medical centre in the region.

City Centre 1 entrance

Just across the street from Surrey Memorial is yet another tall building decked out in some eye-catching orange. A large sign boldly shouts out the name of this structure – City Centre 1. Now that’s a statement. I spied that there was a Starbucks up and running in the lobby. The signs of a few medical offices that have occupied the building were also spotted on the buildings directory in the lobby. City Centre 1 is definitely another sign of Surrey’s growing ambitions.

City Centre 1

Surrey’s City Centre is not without it’s older buildings, though. Just a stone’s throw away from giant orange slab of City Centre 1 is the lowly, yet strikingly charming North Surrey Medical Building.

North Surrey Medical Building

I didn’t really take notice of this building from its front along King George Boulevard, but from the back, it looks wonderful in its simplicity and symmetry. The empty parking lot seemed to add to the moment too.

Central City shopping mall and tower

I headed back north past King George Station to the retail centre of the area – Central City shopping mall. Shopping malls are pretty much the same wherever you go. Central City is actually probably more on the mediocre side when it comes to the shopping environment and experience. What makes Central City different, though, is the university attached to it.

Simon Fraser University – Surrey

Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus is inserted right above the shopping mall. The large atrium above the mall is where one can find classrooms and sleepy uni students. The atrium is beautiful. The sweeping wood trusses rise many stories above the mall below. I think of it like a giant Viking boat floating in the air. Too bad the mall below doesn’t match up with architecture above.

Central City atrium

Just north of Central City past the North Surrey Recreation Centre is the new heart of Surrey. In the past year, Surrey has shifted its seat of power into its new City Hall. The City Centre had been a dilapidated collection of strip malls and unwanted activities for many years. Surrey has set its City Hall right in the heart of what is a transforming city core. It’s still very suburban all around it and the strip malls are still abundant. The new City Hall, though, is another loud declaration of change by the City of Surrey.

Surrey City Hall
City Hall

Right next to the new City Hall is a new City Centre Library. Designed by renowned local architect, Bing Thom, the library is another huge amenity added to a cluster of amenities growing in this new civic core.

City Centre Library
City Hall Plaza

Things seem to be just getting started in Surrey. After many years of talk, some of the major projects have come to fruition. The new City Hall, Civic Plaza, and Library are now all in place. A frenzy of building that started years ago is continuing at this moment. The City Centre area is full of condo presentation centres and giant holes in the ground. Holes in the ground are always tell tale signs of an impending high rise.

condo excavation

Whether Surrey supersedes Vancouver in the region in terms of importance, time will tell. Surrey is definitely aiming high. Major medical and educational institutions are already in the area. The new major civic institutions just opened their doors in 2014. The SkyTrain is already there to whisk folks away to Vancouver and other suburbs. The future light rail transit is priority one with Surrey City Council. Surrey is definitely poised for something big.

If you like the photos, the complete Surrey Centre photo walk album is available on my Flickr.

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