Surrey: The Second Great City

June 8, 2007 at 1:08 pm Leave a comment

It was UBC Landscape Architecture professor Patrick Condon who came up with the concept for the “Second Great City” south of the Fraser.  And it became the hook for the Mayors’ Lecture that City Program Director Gord Price did last week in Surrey.

Here’s how the Province covered the lecture:

Second great city’ envisioned
Officials urged to develop high-density urban villages

Glenda Luymes
The Province

Thursday, June 07, 2007

SURREY – It’s time for Surrey to step up.

It’s no longer a suburb, and decisions made today in the rapidly- growing community south of the Fraser will impact the entire Pacific coast region, including Vancouver.

That’s the message former Vancouver city councillor Gordon Price shared with Surrey planners and planning students at a recent lecture at SFU Surrey.

“Surrey’s future has arrived,” said Price. “For me, what happens regionally is very important because it will determine what happens to my city, Vancouver.” Price said Surrey long ago abandoned its reputation as a Vancouver suburb, but now needs to embrace its future and become the “second great city.” About 58 per cent of Surrey’s jobs are filled by Surrey residents, whereas 52 per cent of Vancouver’s jobs are filled by Vancouver residents, he said. But while a Vancouver resident can walk or take transit to work, Surrey residents are still dependent on cars to get around the city.

Price said the “DNA” of old township blocks is partially responsible for Surrey’s dependence on cars, just as Vancouver’s old streetcar system laid the groundwork for a walkable city a century ago.

In the same way, Price said, decisions made by Surrey planners today will have a huge impact on the type of city Surrey becomes.

And although change is difficult, Surrey must begin to move away from being an “auto city” and become more of a “walking city,” he said.

“Surrey streets are made to function very well at 50 to 100 km/h. You can’t really walk between Whalley and Guildford, so people are forced to get in a car,” he said.

In contrast, Vancouver’s entire downtown core can fit in the space between Whalley and Guildford.

Price said creating high-density villages is one of the best ways to encourage sustainable growth and slowly transform parts of Surrey into walkable mini-cities.

“There’s no magic formula,” he said. “But certainly if you can create a series of smaller communities where people don’t have to drive, it’s going to help.” Price cited the award-winning Central City development, where SFU Surrey shares space with a shopping mall, street-side shops and various restaurants, all just metres away from two SkyTrain stations, as a model for future growth.

But Surrey city planner Mark Allison said that while the Central City development has been a success for the city, it remains difficult to attract businesses and residents to dense neighbourhoods.

Pushed out of Vancouver by rising house prices, many of the people moving to Surrey are looking for affordable single-family homes, which ultimately contribute to an auto-dependent city, he said.

But Allison said that with better transit and increased living options, he thinks residents will be attracted to sustainable living.

For example, a 400-unit apartment building in the heart of Whalley recently sold out in just two weekends.

“We know we can make it work,” said Allison. “There’s definitely a momentum building and we’re going to take advantage of it.” gluymes@png.canwest.com

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