The Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association rolled out the results of its 2020 Our Surrey Vision community engagement project at a luncheon at the Civic Hotel in Whalley on Thursday.
The DSBIA, which was formed in 2003, last year issued a survey asking local residents for their input on how to create the “best possible vision” for Surrey’s downtown.
During four months of community consultation – which saw 4,677 in-person engagements, 168,000 online engagements including 988 online and 318 paper survey responses, for a total of 1,316 – seven themes arose, dealing with built environment and public spaces, safety, services and businesses, transportation, community, entertainment and affordability.
The take-away, said project manager Bonnie Burnside, is people “want it to be unique.”
“One of the things is people want a unique permanent market,” she said. “Another thing we want to promote is walkable streets.”
The result of this undertaking is a 55-page document with a healthy catalogue of recommendations. It encourages the City of Surrey or other levels of government to ensure downtown is safe and clean with pedestrian-only streets, an iconic big clock, “nice” gardens, a museum focusing on history and art, an iconic performance centre, more parks and greenery and trees, services for mental health and addictions, and affordable housing.
Land developers, it suggests, might build a “restaurant row,” tall iconic towers, an entertainment district featuring “nightlife,” public art, an observation deck with a restaurant, add a permanent indoor or multicultural market to new developments, and recruit post-secondary schools to operate South-of-Fraser campuses out of new developments.
The report says the DSBIA could focus on street life (performers), a Downtown Surrey Welcome sign, help ensure a safe and clean community, and focus on community arts projects, transit through advocacy, festivals, events and activities for youths, and advocating for assistance for people who are homeless, mentally ill or have addiction issues.
Participants were asked to list three of their favorite things about Downtown Surrey and the top 10 responses, from one to 10, were Skytrain, City Centre Library/Library, shopping, Holland Park, Central City/Surrey Place Mall/Surrey Central Mall/”The Mall,” food/restaurants, parks, SFU, events/festivals/Fusion Fest/ Movies Under the Stars, and transit hub.
Asked to rate their experience in Downtown Surrey over the past year, 54 per cent chose “very positive” or somewhat positive, 24 per cent indicated a “neutral feeling” and 22 per cent either “somewhat or very negative.”
Of those who completed the survey, roughly 50 were age 15 or under, about 225 were 16 to 24, some 425 were 25 to 40 years old, a little under 450 were 41 to 64 years old, a little over 100 were 65 and older, and a little over 50 provided no answer.
A little more than 500 were residents, just over 400 were visitors, about 140 were employees or employers, 100 were students and just under 100 were property owners. Moreover, about 225 respondents lived in the city centre, a little less than that in the larger Whalley community, roughly 180 were from Newton, a little over 150 hailed from Guildford, about 140 were from Fleetwood, a little over 100 were from Cloverdale (same for South Surrey), and the remainder were from Vancouver, “Surrey”, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Delta and “other.”
— Tom Zytaruk (@tomzytaruk) January 30, 2020
So where does it go from here?
Burnside said the BIA’s board will be going over the report and working on a five-year strategic plan.
“So they’ll be coming up with what their priorities are out of that plan,” she said, “and on a grassroots level we’ll be hiring students again for the summer – every year we hire students – and some of the projects that will be working on directly relate to ideas that people have come up with through the report.”