British Columbia

Flamingo Hotel demolished as Whalley gets ready for highrise development

Hundreds of people showed up to witness the final moments of the colourful corner at 108 Avenue and King George Boulevard.

Hundreds of people showed up to witness final moments of colourful corner

The Flamingo Hotel in Surrey was destroyed with a bang on Saturday. Three highrises will be built on the site. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Hundreds of people gathered in Surrey Saturday to watch crews begin the demolition of a colourful hotel that will make way for a trio of new highrises.

On Saturday, Mayor Doug McCallum took the initial blow with a wrecking machine to begin bringing down the buildings on the block of 108 Avenue and King George Boulevard, which was most well-known for the Flamingo Hotel. Pyrotechnics and music accompanied the event. 

The site will soon be home to three new sparkling high rises that are part of development planned for the area. 0:31

The demolition is part of the Flamingo Block Project, which the city approved in 2017.

It's the idea of developer Charan Sethi, who will replace the buildings at the corner — which previously housed a sex shop, strip club and bar — with condo towers, shops and restaurants.

"I saw land which wasn't being used," he said at the event on Saturday. "It gives me something to create out of nothing."

Charan Sethi with the Tien Sher Group of Companies is excited about the new direction Whalley is taking. (Jon Hernandez/Surrey)

McCallum says the project represents how Surrey is trying to modernize.

The project has been described as becoming the "Yaletown of Surrey," and McCallum says although the corner and its businesses were well-known in the city, it's time for a change.

"I think it was a symbol of the past and how our city centre and Whalley is changing for the future," he said. "We are moving forward."

There has been support for the development from the business community and many residents, but some are still not sure about the coming changes.

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

Surrey residents Carol Bulley and Randy Prudent were there to watch the Flamingo block get torn down and said the demolition represents Surrey losing its tight-knit community charm.

"We all used to know each other," said Bulley. "You walk down the street, you know who everyone is, now we don't even know our next-door neighbours."

Prudent, who was born in Surrey, said he's seen many changes over the years.

"It's a big city now, not like it used to be," he said.

Surrey residents Randy Prudent and Carol Bulley say the demolition of the Flamingo is just one of many changes facing their city. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

For others, the development is creating uncertainty around affordability.

Critics say the new highrises will come at the expense of a homeless shelter that also sits on the property.

Dave Diewart, with the Surrey Alliance Against Displacement, says gentrification is driving up the cost of living in a neighbourhood that's home to many working class and low-income residents.

"As the property values keep going up, their rents are going to go up, so this has a snowball effect of further displacement of people who are vulnerably housed."

The city says the Flamingo Block Project is just the beginning; there are plans for 16 new highrises in the neighbourhood.

A rendering the three highrises to be built as part of the Flamingo Block Project. (CBC)

With files from Jon Hernandez

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