British Columbia

Council green lights 'Yaletown of Surrey' project

The first phase of a developer’s plan to transform one of Surrey’s most notorious corners into the so-called "Yaletown of Surrey" now has the green light from council.

Developer wants to replace strip club and sex shops in Whalley with housing and restaurants

The Byrd, a strip club on King George Boulevard, will eventually be torn down to make way for the new development. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

The first phase of a developer's plan to transform one of Surrey's most notorious corners into the so-called "Yaletown of Surrey" now has the green light from council.

The block on King George Boulevard between 108 and 107 Avenues is currently home to sex shops, a strip club and a bar.

Over the next decade, Charan Sethi plans to replace those buildings with condo towers, shops and restaurants.

"I'll be glad to see some of [those old businesses] gone," Mayor Linda Hepner said Monday night before she voted in favour of Sethi's proposal.

Phase one of the Flamingo Block Project, which is named after the soon-to-be-replaced Flamingo Hotel, includes a 35-storey mixed use tower and a handful of low rise buildings.

"We are certainly trying to liven up the area," Sethi said.

Developer Charan Sethi's vision for King George Boulevard south of 108 Avenue. (Tien Sher Group of Companies)

Community support

Sethi's business, the Tien Sher Group of Companies, is responsible for much of the development sprouting up in Whalley.

He sees huge potential in the area but also acknowledges that it has a long way to go before it resembles Yaletown, the neighbourhood he's trying to emulate with his design.

"It does scare the hell out of me sometimes when I come out at nighttime to try to protect my properties," he said.

"We have a construction site and we have two types of security systems in there. Right now, it's nothing but a hazard for everyone who is in the area."

Rourke Anderson, who runs a martial arts studio nearby, agrees that crime and drug use in the neighbourhood are a major concern.

"Before my children's classes, one of our rituals is to walk around and pick up all the discarded needles," he said.

"Small crack pipes, crystal meth and just about every other substance you can imagine."

Anderson says he supports the project because it will be a positive improvement to a community that is in dire need of a facelift.

Representatives from the Surrey Board of Trade, Fraser Valley Real Estate Board and Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association also spoke in support of the project.

What about the homeless?

Surrey Urban Mission executive director Mike Musgrove was originally concerned the development would push vulnerable people out of the area and into other communities.

Now that Musgrove has had more time to think about the proposal, he's more receptive to it.

"I would love to walk through art displays, go to coffee shops and eat at a new restaurant at Flamingo Square," he said.

He says, however, the people who currently live on the street and in the shelters in that area can't be forgotten as plans for the new development go ahead.

"It is great to see so many people together that love this community but many seem to see this development as a means to solve the problems in the area," Musgrove said.

"As someone who works with people who are struggling with homelessness, brain health and living with addiction, I don't understand how development is going to solve those issues. I wish it was that easy."