Homeless advocates concerned about rapid development in Surrey
Surrey Urban Mission fears gentrification of Whalley will push the homeless to other parts of the city
Author Douglas Coupland nicknamed Vancouver the City of Glass, but with the development explosion along the north end of King George Blvd. in Surrey, one could refer to Whalley by the same name.
Surrey city councillor Barbara Steele moved into a high rise near City Hall two years ago.
"I live high up and I face City Hall and there are towers going up and buildings going up all around me," she said.
"I am in a position of being able to watch an entire city grow all around me."
New towers are under construction near City Hall, King George SkyTrain Station, Gateway SkyTrain station and a major redevelopment project is planned for the corner of 108 Avenue and King George Blvd.
"People have compared it to Yaletown," Steele said.
"It's high rises. It's high density and there will be a lot of businesses there, too."
What about the homeless?
Even with the shiny new buildings that are sprouting up around Whalley, the community continues to struggle with homelessness and drug use.
Surrey Urban Mission sits in the middle of the block up for redevelopment.
Executive Director Mike Musgrove says homeless people fear gentrification will push them to other areas of the city.
"They're scared and they see police and bylaw officers coming in and moving them along and moving them out," Musgrove said.
"It scares them and they don't know where they're going to go. They want a home and they want a place to live and we want to help them with that process.
Transforming a neighbourhood
Developer Charan Sethi coined the phrase "Yaletown of Surrey."
He plans on turning the strip club, sex shops and other businesses on King George Blvd. and 108th Avenue into condo towers, shops and restaurants.
"Obviously I can't exactly replicate the Yaletown area because there is no water," he said.
"So what can I do to make it into that same feeling and what is that feeling? To me, it's that you can live in an apartment and if you want to go to a grocery store, it's downstairs. If you want to have a beer, it's downstairs."
Old landmarks like the Flamingo Hotel will eventually be torn down to make way for Sethi's vision.
He hopes to preserve some of the neighbourhood's history in a book.