SFU Surrey Spearheads Change
With the opening of SFU's new Surrey campus in 2002, the transformation of Surrey's "Central City" has begun. The campus is housed in a thirty-thousand square meter portion of the Central City Mall, an architectural masterpiece designed by award winning Bing Thom. It is the cornerstone for the city's plans to rejuvenate the run-down Whalley area.
Whalley is currently renowned worldwide for it's high rate of car theft and for it's night-time business men and women. Surrey mayor Diane Watts hopes to change this though, and SFU Surrey was the first step. She has been actively encouraging development of first class high-rise apartments and office buildings as well. The first of these, the Sky Towers project, is a monumental leap towards the urban center that Watts wishes to create. “With the first Infinity tower ready for occupancy in January, and four more towers on the way, the addition of the Sky Towers enhances the city's goal of turning Central City into Surrey's downtown community," said Watts in a 2007 interview. The towers are the tallest between Vancouver and Calgary, and according to Cameron McNeill of MAC Real Estate Marketing Solutions, “With Sky Towers and the Infinity project, we're looking to build a dense urban mecca, at its heart is the Surrey campus of Simon Fraser University, along with shops, restaurants and recreational facilities, all within walking distance of SkyTrain. If we look ahead five or ten years, Central City is going to be one of the most significant urban centers in Western Canada.”
The mayor also plans to relocate Surrey City Hall into the Central City core, which would move two thousand city staff into the middle of the project.
The development has hit a few bumps already. Last October, the Quattro project was burned to the ground by arsonists and is currently being rebuilt. Quattro is Surrey’s largest mixed-use development and is quintessential to Watts’ plans. Two other housing developments have run into bankruptcy, but Watts remains undeterred, “We raised the bar on development. No more strip malls. No more sprawl.” She is prepared to see this project through to it’s end.