LRT has developers eyeing Newton area of Surrey, B.C.

Coun. Tom Gill says several developers have expressed interest in projects along the proposed LRT line that will connect Surrey's City Centre area with the community of Newton.

Coun. Tom Gill believes light rail will help bring some much needed revitalization to the community

TransLink hopes to start construction in late 2019 on a new LRT line in Surrey, B.C. (City of Surrey)

For the first time in a long time, words like "rejuvenation" are being used in the Newton area of Surrey, B.C.

The community, which is wedged between the city's downtown to the north and the rapidly growing population of the south, has been on the radar of developers since an LRT line was first discussed more than a decade ago.

As the transit project hit one snag after another, however, investors took their money to other parts of the city while Newton was left to struggle.

Coun. Tom Gill says now that there is finally a funding deal in place for a new LRT line, that's about to change.

"I think there's going to be some great opportunities for the development community, for the individuals that currently live there and great opportunities for future residents as well," Gill said.

"There's a tremendous amount of interest right now, and I think that many large organizations are coming to Surrey."

An artist's rendering of what the intersection of King George Boulevard and 76 Avenue will look like in the future (City of Surrey)

TransLink hopes to break ground late next year on the L-Line, which will run from Newton to City Centre on King George Boulevvard and then connect to Guildford Town Centre along 104 Avenue.

Colliers International vice president Jason Teahen says the project should attract some developers to Newton, but he believes investments won't be nearly as substantial as they are in Surrey's downtown core.

"I'm sure you'll see some additional development start to take place," he said. "However, the critical mass that is in City Centre, from residential, retail, office perspective, I think, is really where you're going to continue to see the majority of the major development."

The community has launched several beautification projects in Newton, including this mural near the intersection of King George Boulevard and 72 Avenue. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Newton's turn

An LRT station is expected to be built at the corner of 72 Avenue and King George Boulevard, not far from the strip mall where the Hearty Boy served breakfast for 40 years.

For the last three years, there has been a note on the window letting customers know the restaurant is closed.

There are similar notices on about half of the empty businesses in the plaza, despite the best efforts of community volunteers who've taken on countless beautification projects.

They pick up litter, remove graffiti and have even turned a vacant lot that was once a magnet for crime into a pristine dog park.

Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman believes light rail will be the catalyst Newton needs.

"The development community that we've been speaking to has been very excited about the prospect of light rail transit breaking ground," said Huberman.

"You are going to see, I believe, a complete revitalization of the area."

TransLink hopes to start construction on the LRT line late next year, but Gill says developers are already starting to reach out to the city.

"They're looking at what kind of densities they might be able to pull off," he said.

"They're looking at their math. They're running their numbers and looking at their construction costs.

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