British Columbia

How Surrey's East Clayton neighbourhood was designed with kids in mind

There are so many young families in Surrey’s East Clayton neighbourhood that there’s a coffee shop geared specifically toward weary parents.

Surrey community was designed in the late 1990s as an affordable place to live for young families

Jane McBride owns Fiona's Playdate Cafe in Clayton with her husband, Shawn. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

There are so many young families in Surrey's East Clayton neighbourhood that there's a coffee shop geared specifically toward weary parents.

Fiona's Playdate Cafe is like a Starbucks and indoor playground rolled into one, with grown-ups like Jane McBride sipping lattes while their kids play.

"It was hard to find a place where I could sit down and have a [coffee] while they run around," McBride said.

"A place where I don't have to entertain them with an iPad or my phone."

McBride was so impressed with the concept that she bought Fiona's a couple of years ago with her husband, Shawn.

She says Clayton is the perfect location for a kid-friendly coffee shop.

"Moms meet here, become friends and have playdates all the time," she said.

"It's really nice to see a sense of community."

The cafe has a large, secure play area for children. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

Affordable, sustainable, walkable

Families like the McBrides were what urban designer Patrick Condon had in mind when he helped design East Clayton in the late 1990s.

His goal was to create an affordable, sustainable and walkable neighbourhood.

Secondary suites were emphasized to attract renters and also to help homeowners pay their mortgages.

"In order for the owner to be able to live in East Clayton, they enthusiastically embraced the idea of being landlords," Condon said.

"That allowed them to afford a home, which they otherwise wouldn't be able to do."

Young families snapped up the new homes as quickly as developers could build them.

Clayton Heights was designed to be transit friendly but most residents rely on their vehicles to get around. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

Amenity lag

However, Surrey's mayor says the population of East Clayton grew so quickly that the city and province struggled to keep up with demand for public amenities and new schools.

Complaints are often heard about a lack of transit, parking and crowded classrooms in the area, but Mayor Doug McCallum says improvements are coming.

"One of the things we need to do in Clayton is [get] the infrastructure picked up," he said.

"We're building a very large community centre there and it's going to open next year."

McCallum is also pushing for a SkyTrain line from Surrey to Langley that will have a station in Clayton.

Condon says the neighbourhood was designed to be transit friendly, but residents have been waiting 20 years for better service.

"The SkyTrain will be a huge help to allow people to survive without three cars per family," he said.

"That would help alleviate the parking problem, too."

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum says a SkyTrain line between Surrey and Langley will connect Clayton to the region's rapid transit network. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

Kid-friendly design

Condon says every aspect of East Clayton takes children into consideration.

Residents park behind their homes, freeing up space in the front for yards and porches.

The design allows children to play with their neighbours in the front yard without worrying about cars backing out onto the street.

"It's gratifying when I walk along the streets and see the beautiful gardens, people embellishing their porches and saying hi to people who are walking by with their dogs," Condon said.

"It's really been a draw for people who are kind of hungry for that environment."

Surrey — Why We Live Here is a week-long series looking at the people and neighbourhoods that make up B.C.'s second largest city.

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