The180·The 180

Surrey B.C: an aspiring planner's dream

Paul Hillsdon grew up in Surrey, and after moving away to pursue a career, Paul's decided to come back. Now he's getting a graduate degree in planning and though he knows that people don't want to move to Surrey, he says when he looks around his city- he sees opportunity everywhere.
Paul Hillsdon explains to the CBC's Jim Brown why he sees Surrey as an opportunity to build a city from the ground-up. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC)

The City of Surrey is in the middle of massive change. It's trying to create a dense and walkable downtown core from suburban sprawl.

For people like Paul Hillsdon, a young Surrey resident and aspiring city planner, it's an exciting time. 

I've seen it transform from a very rural, suburban area, to a thriving city centre. It's exciting, but there are significant challenges that come with growth, at that pace.- Paul Hillsdon, Surrey resident and planning student

Hillsdon grew up in Cloverdale, an older neighbourhood in Surrey surrounded by farmland.

In 2008, at just 18 years old, he ran for Surrey City Council, on a platform of sustainable development. He's currently studying urban planning at UBC, and wants to stay in Surrey. 

I think this is where the opportunity is. When I look at Vancouver, Vancouver's interesting but all the major issues have been tackled. It's been coasting for a while now. The downtown's built out, and affordability seems to be this issue that nobody can solve. Whereas here, you're really building a city from the ground up.... and everybody wants to be in Vancouver, nobody wants to come to Surrey, so I feel like it attracts a unique personality.- Paul Hillsdon, Surrey resident and planning student

To Hillsdon, one of Surrey's challenges is public perception.

Surrey has a reputation among many Vancouverites and other British Columbians as a dangerous place, associated with gang violence and street shootings.

Hillsdon says there are problems in Surrey, but the reputation is overblown. 

A lot of it tends to be isolated to one particular area of Surrey. The reporting on it makes a big difference, because I think it's public perception, more than the reality of an actual threat. - Paul Hillsdon, Surrey resident and planning student
The plaza between Surrey's City Centre Library and City Hall. The development is part of an effort to create a dense, walkable downtown core. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC)

For a closer look at the crime and other challenges facing the Surrey neighbourhood of Whalley, we visit 'the strip' here.

Click the PLAY button above to hear the full interview with Paul Hillsdon.

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